Technocrat Millionaire Unlocks Secrets Of The Mind

Posted: July 25, 2021 at 3:49 pm

The promise of a leagues-more-affordable technology that anyone can wear and walk around with is, well, mind-bending. Excited researchers anticipateusing the helmets to gain insightinto brain aging, mental disorders, concussions, strokes, and the mechanics behind previously metaphysical experiences such as meditation and psychedelic trips. To make progress on all the fronts that we need to as a society, we have to bring the brain online, says Bryan Johnson, whos spent more than five years and raised about $110 millionhalf of it his own moneyto develop the helmets.

Johnson is the chief executive officer of Kernel, a startup thats trying to build and sell thousands, or even millions, of lightweight, relatively inexpensive helmets that have the oomph and precision needed for what neuroscientists, computer scientists, and electrical engineers have been trying to do for years: peer through the human skull outside of university or government labs. In what must be some kind of record for rejection, 228 investors passed on Johnsons sales pitch, and the CEO, who made a fortune from his previous company in the payments industry, almost zeroed out his bank account last year to keep Kernel running. We were two weeks away from missing payroll, he says. Although Kernels tech still has much to prove, successful demonstrations, conducted shortly before Covid-19 spilled across the globe, convinced some of Johnsons doubters that he has a shot at fulfilling his ambitions.

A core element of Johnsons pitch is Know thyself, a phrase that harks back to ancient Greece, underscoring how little weve learned about our head since Plato. Scientists have built all manner of tests and machines to measure our heart, blood, and even DNA, but brain tests remain rare and expensive, sharply limiting our data on the organ that most defines us. If you went to a cardiologist and they asked you how your heart feels, you would think they are crazy, Johnson says. You would ask them to measure your blood pressure and your cholesterol and all of that.

The first Kernel helmets are headed to brain research institutions and, perhaps less nobly, companies that want to harness insights about how people think to shape their products. (Christof Koch, chief scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, calls Kernels devices revolutionary.) By 2030, Johnson says, he wants to bring down the price to the smartphone range and put a helmet in every American householdwhich starts to sound as if hes pitching a panacea. The helmets, he says, will allow people to finally take their mental health seriously, to get along better, to examine the mental effects of the pandemic and even the root causes of American political polarization. If the Biden administration wanted to fund such research, Johnson says, hed be more than happy to sell the feds a million helmets and get started: Lets do the largest brain study in history and try to unify ourselves and get back to a steady state.

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Technocrat Millionaire Unlocks Secrets Of The Mind

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