Implanting a microchip inside the brain to augment its mental powers has long been a science fiction trope. Now, the brain computer interface is suddenly the hot new thing in tech. This spring, Elon Musk started a new company, Neuralink, to do it. Facebook, at its F8 developer’s conference, showed a video of an ALS patient typing with her brain. But earlier to the game was Bryan Johnson, an entrepreneur who in 2013 made a bundle by selling his company, Braintree, to Paypal for $800 million. Last year, he used $100 million of that to start Kernel, a company that is exploring how to build and implant chips into the skulls of those with some form of neurological disease and dysfunction, to reprogram their neural networks to restore some of their lost abilities.
But helping to restore a damaged brain is only an entry point for Kernel. Johnson, a 39-year-old from Utah, is looking forward—with almost unseemly enthusiasm—to the day that healthy people can get neural augmentation. He has emerged as one of the most eloquent evangelists of reinventing the human brain. Needless to say, this effort raises lots of questions—the very questions I raised to him in a conversation recently. (It’s been edited for clarity and brevity.) Will his answers make you sign up for a brain computer interface? (Warning: it’s kind of invasive, but Johnson hopes that we might figure out how to do it without major noggin demolition.) Read it and make your own decision—albeit with your obsolete, unmodified brain.
Image courtesy of Wired.