Silicon Valley's self-assigned mission to change the world is widely mocked. Tech people tend to regard everything human as a problem to fix. After tracking our heart and steps with connected wristbands (Fitbit), here comes the bio-hacking: the art to power up both our bodies and cerebral performances.
With the looming of the artificial intelligence revolution, a few startups are advocating that it's time to re-engineer sloppy human brains. And where else could this take place than in the Bay Area, historically known for wedging together the hippie dreams of San Francisco and the deep learning algorithms of Stanford? It seemed only a matter of time before the cultural Kool Aid of 2016 sprang from its labs.
These last few years, some serious rounds of funding (and applause) have boosted the pioneers tackling the problems of meal replacement and 'functional food', like Bulletproof, Soylent and countless other imitations. More recently, 'nootropics' and 'stacks' have become new buzz words: an entire generation of workaholics devoting themselves to mixing compounds of legal cognitive-enhancing ingredients, looking for a new Grail. 'How can we outperform ourselves by popping a pill, minus the terrible comedown of speed?' they ask.
Newcomers Nootrobox already made a splash in this area during the last SXSW. Courtesy of the company's two founders, Geoff Woo and Michael Brandt, coffee was plentiful at the trendy Austin festival. The only difference was that this time, it was offered in the unexpected form of chewable gummies.
Two Nootrobox Go Cubes equal an entire cup of cold brew coffee, with augmented promises: first, no spilling ('no mess, no stress'); two, no jitters (it's mixed with L-Theanine, a green tea ingredient said to eliminate this side effect of caffeine); three, no messing around. 'You never know how much caffeine you get from you barista. Twenty-five mg? Two-hundred mg? With Go Cubes, you know,' boast the founders.
The sugar-coated coffee – which include also B6 and 'methylated' B12 – is not 'just a more convenient form factor than a jug of hot liquid; it's also better for cognitive performance due to the nootropics', they explain. Its formula is similar to a previous Nootrobox product, 'Sprint', a more traditional capsule. So why the candy form and cartoonish packaging? Perhaps it's more accessible, less scary than a pill or powder. 'We see ourselves as a group of artists, creators and inventors,' say the founders, prclaiming Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein as inspiration for the design, branding and logos of Go Cubes. Thanks to that – and also to the three flavors options (mocha, pure drip, latte) – chewers will feel like mental powerhouses-cum-coffee-snobs, rather than substance-dependent office bots.