$100 Million Plan to Link Brains to Computers
Entrepreneur Bryan Johnson says he wanted to become very rich in order to do something great for humankind. Last year Johnson, founder of the online payments company Braintree, starting making news when he threw $100 million behind Kernel, a startup he founded to enhance human intelligence by developing brain implants capable of linking people’s thoughts to computers. Johnson isn’t alone in believing that “neurotechnology” could be the next big thing. To many in Silicon Valley, the brain looks like an unconquered frontier whose importance dwarfs any achievement made in computing or the Web.
According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called “neural lace,” which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to “symbiosis with machines.” And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share “full sensory and emotional experiences,” not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division. As these people see it, computing keeps achieving new heights, but our ability to interface with silicon is stuck in the keyboard era. Even when speaking to a computer program like Alexa or Siri, you can convey at most about 40 bits per second of information and only for short bursts. Compare that to data transfer records of a trillion bits per second along a fiber-optic cable. “Ridiculously slow,” Musk complained.
But it turns out that connecting to the brain isn’t so easy. Six months after launching Kernel amid a media blitz, Johnson says he’s dropped his initial plans for a “memory implant,” switched scientific advisors, hired a new team, and decided to instead invest in developing a more general-purpose technology for recording and stimulating the brain using electrodes. Johnson says the switch-up is part of trying something new. “If you look at the key contributing technologies of society, the ones with the most impact, like rockets, the Internet, biology—there was a transition point from academia to the private sector, and for the most part neuroscience hasn’t made that jump,” says Johnson. “The most critical element is timing, when is the right time to pursue this.”
Memory implants - After making a fortune selling Braintree to eBay for $800 million in 2013, Johnson, now 39, reportedly sought the advice of nearly 200 people on how to invest his new wealth. He settled on neurotechnology and, last August, he announced he’d create Kernel and build the first neural prosthetic for human intelligence enhancement. But Johnson’s business plan was extremely vague; one scientist called it “metaphysical.” Kernel’s website was plastered with book-jacket-like endorsements from scientific celebrities including J. Craig Venter and Tim O’Reilly, extolling his “great” and “serious” commitment to understanding human intelligence, not to mention the impressive $100 million he later promised to invest in Kernel.
Bryan Johnson The reality is that interfacing with the brain is tough: electronics irritate its tissue and stop working after a while, and no one will get brain surgery just in order to send an e-mail. What’s more, even if you can communicate with the brain, you might not know what it is saying. “Billionaires entering the broader neurotechnology field are very optimistic and may overlook details of the problem, which is we are far away from meaningfully understanding the brain,” says Konrad Kording, a Northwestern University neuroscientist who has advised Johnson. “But neurotechnology allows you to work on the most interesting questions in the universe while potentially making money, and so that is exciting.”
Kernel’s original technology was a memory prosthesis, developed by Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California, who until recently was also the company’s chief scientific officer. Berger’s technology (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies: Memory Implants”) is a way of recording memories of rats and monkeys, storing these patterns on a computer chip, and re-delivering them to the hippocampus. One version of the setup, Berger says, has been tested in a handful of human patients undergoing brain surgery for other reasons. But a mere six months after starting Kernel, Berger is no longer part of the company, and memory implants are no longer part of Kernel’s near-term plans. Johnson and Berger both confirmed the separation.
Berger’s vision, according to several people, was too complex, too speculative, and too far from becoming a medical reality, while Johnson hoped to see a return on his investment sometime soon. “They have a new direction, but we’re still talking,” says Berger. “The basic reason is it was going to take too long. It’s one thing to think about this and quite another to do it.” Johnson says he concluded that Berger’s work “is really interesting, but not an entry point” into a commercially viable business.
Brain interface - By last November, Johnson was already exploring a pivot for his company, meeting with Christian Wentz, head of a small Cambridge startup, Kendall Research Systems, that sells equipment for recording in the neurons of mice and other animals. The company spun out of the laboratory of Edward Boyden, a professor at MIT who invents new ways of analyzing brain tissue. In February, Johnson acquired Wentz’s company (for an undisclosed sum) and with it brought in a new team, including Wentz and Adam Marblestone, a noted theorist of both the limitations and possibilities of brain interfaces, who will become chief strategy officer. Both are former Boyden lab members, as are two other Kernel scientists, Caroline Moore-Kochlacs and Jake Bernstein.
Johnson says Kernel will now develop a “generalized human electrophysiology platform”—that is, a flexible way of measuring the electrical impulses from many neurons at once, and stimulating them, too. The eventual objective is to use such electronics to treat major diseases, like depression or Alzheimer’s. “It’s for clinical use,” he says. “We are a for-profit company.”
Wentz says as part of the acquisition he and Johnson agreed that much more R&D on brain interfaces will probably be needed. “We have a very sober view of what can and can’t be done,” Wentz says. “We are not naïve.” He calls Kernel’s effort a “15-year endeavor,” although he adds that “we want to do in that period what has been done in the last 100 years.” With the pivot, Johnson is effectively jumping on an opportunity created by the Brain Initiative, an Obama-era project which plowed money into new schemes for recording neurons. That influx of cash has spurred the formation of several other startups, including Paradromics and Cortera, also developing novel hardware for collecting brain signals. As part of the government brain project, the defense R&D agency DARPA says it is close to announcing $60 million in contracts under a program to create a “high-fidelity” brain interface able to simultaneously record from one million neurons (the current record is about 200) and stimulate 100,000 at a time.
“It’s time for neuroscience to graduate from academia to a general neuroscience platform,” says Johnson. With such a technology “a whole range of new applications—a lot of white space—would open up.” Johnson declined to describe the specifics of Kernel’s technological approach to connecting with the brain, as did Boyden and Wentz. However, the team members have been working on well-identified problems. Wentz has been involved with developing electronics for high-speed reading of data emitted by wireless implants. Already, the flow of information that can be collected from a mouse’s brain in real time outruns what a laptop computer can handle. The team also needs a way to interface with the human brain. Boyden’s lab has worked on several concepts to do so, including needle-shaped probes with tiny electrodes etched onto their surface. Another idea is to record neural activity by threading tiny optical fibers through the brain’s capillaries, an idea roughly similar to Musk’s neural lace.
More sophisticated means of reading and writing to the brain are seen as potential ways to treat psychiatric disorders. Under a concept that Boyden calls “brain coprocessors,” it may be possible to create closed-loop systems that detect certain brain signals—say, those associated with depression—and shock the brain to reverse them. Some surgeons and doctors funded by another DARPA program are in the early stages of determining whether serious mental conditions can be treated in this way (see “A Shocking Way to Fix the Brain”). Boyden says Johnson’s $100 million makes a big difference to how he and his students view the entrepreneur’s goals. “A lot of neurotechnology has come and gone. But one thing is that it’s very expensive,” he says. “The inventing is expensive, the clinical work is expensive. It’s not easy. And here is someone putting money into the game.”
As of April 23, 2015 - Please Donate
Please Support Keelynet and
help spread the weirdness...
Check out our amazing Ebooks, CDs and DVDs
You can download or order our ebooks on CD. We also have unusual DVDs that you might find of interest. And our Collections of files to save you money with ebooks on John Keely, Walter Russell, Chandra Bose, Rejuvenation, Homeopathy and much, much more.
DVD - the Physics of Crystals, Pyramids and Tetrahedrons
This is a wonderful duel DVD set lasting 2 hours and which presents one man's lifelong study of pyramids, crystals and their effects. Several of his original and very creative experiments are explained and diagramed out for experimenters. These experiments include;
1) transmutation of zinc to lower elements using a tetrahedron,
- Two DVDs - More Info and check out this Youtube Clip
2) energy extraction from a pyramid,
3) determining mathematic ratios of nature in a simple experiment,
4) accelerating the growth of food,
5) increasing the abundance of food,
6) how crystals amplify, focus and defocus energy,
7) using crystals to assist natural healing,
8) how the universe uses spirals and vortexes to produce free energy and MORE...
KeelyNet BBS Files w/bonus PDF of 'Keely and his Discoveries'
Finally, I've gotten around to compiling all the files (almost 1,000 - about 20MB and lots of work doing it) from the original KeelyNet BBS into a form you can easily navigate and read using your browser, ideally Firefox but it does work with IE. Most of these files are extremely targeted, interesting and informative, I had forgotten just how much but now you can have the complete organized, categorized set, not just sprinklings from around the web. They will keep you reading for weeks if not longer and give you clues and insights into many subjects and new ideas for investigation and research. IN ADDITION, I am including as a bonus gift, the book (in PDF form) that started it all for me, 'Keely and his Discoveries - Aerial Navigation' which includes the analysis of Keely's discoveries by Dr. Daniel G. Brinton. This 407 page eBook alone is worth the price of the KeelyNet BBS CD but it will give you some degree of understanding about what all Keely accomplished which is just now being rediscovered, but of course, without recognizing Keely as the original discoverer. Chapters include; Vibratory Sympathetic and Polar Flows, Vibratory Physics, Latent Force in Interstitial Spaces and much more. To give some idea of how Keely's discoveries are being slowly rediscovered in modern times, check out this Keely History. These two excellent bodies of information will be sent to you on CD. If alternative science intrigues and fascinates you, this CD is what you've been looking for...
- More Info
'The Evolution of Matter' and 'The Evolution of Forces' on CD
Years ago, I had been told by several people, that the US government frequently removes books they deem dangerous or 'sensitive' from libraries. Some are replaced with sections removed or rewritten so as to 'contain' information that should not be available to the public despite the authors intent. A key example was during the Manhattan Project when the US was trying to finalize research into atomic bombs. They removed any books that dealt with the subject and two of them were by Dr. Gustave Le Bon since they dealt with both energy and matter including radioactivity. I had been looking for these two books for many years and fortunately stumbled across two copies for which I paid about $40.00 each. I couldn't put down the books once I started reading them. Such a wealth of original discoveries, many not known or remembered today. / Page 88 - Without the ether there could be neither gravity, nor light, nor electricity, nor heat, nor anything, in a word, of which we have knowledge. The universe would be silent and dead, or would reveal itself in a form which we cannot even foresee. If one could construct a glass chamber from which the ether were to be entirely eliminated, heat and light could not pass through it. It would be absolutely dark, and probably gravitation would no longer act on the bodies within it. They would then have lost their weight. / Page 96-97 - A material vortex may be formed by any fluid, liquid or gaseous, turning round an axis, and by the fact of its rotation it describes spirals. The study of these vortices has been the object of important researches by different scholars, notably by Bjerkness and Weyher. They have shown that by them can be produced all the attractions and repulsions recognized in electricity, the deviations of the magnetic needle by currents, etc. These vortices are produced by the rapid rotation of a central rod furnished with pallets, or, more simply, of a sphere. Round this sphere gaseous currents are established, dissymetrical with regard to its equatorial plane, and the result is the attraction or repulsion of bodies brought near to it, according to the position given to them. It is even possible, as Weyher has proved, to compel these bodies to turn round the sphere as do the satellites of a planet without touching it. / Page 149 - "The problem of sending a pencil of parallel Hertzian waves to a distance possesses more than a theoretical interest. It is allowable to say that its solution would change the course of our civilization by rendering war impossible. The first physicist who realizes this discovery will be able to avail himself of the presence of an enemy's ironclads gathered together in a harbour to blow them up in a few minutes, from a distance of several kilometres, simply by directing on them a sheaf of electric radiations. On reaching the metal wires with which these vessels are nowadays honeycombed, this will excite an atmosphere of sparks which will at once explode the shells and torpedoes stored in their holds. With the same reflector, giving a pencil of parallel radiations, it would not be much more difficult to cause the explosion of the stores of powder and shells contained in a fortress, or in the artillery sparks of an army corps, and finally the metal cartridges of the soldiers. Science, which at first rendered wars so deadly, would then at length have rendered them impossible, and the relations between nations would have to be established on new bases."
- More Info
High Voltage & Free Energy Devices Handbook
This wonderfully informative ebook provides many simple experiments you can do, including hydrogen generation and electrostatic repulsion as well as the keys to EV Gray's Fuelless Engine. One of the most comprehensive compilations of information yet detailing the effects of high voltage repulsion as a driving force. Ed Gray's engine produced in excess of 300HP and he claimed to be able to 'split the positive' energy of electricity to produce a self-running motor/generator for use as an engine. Schematics and tons of photos of the original machines and more! Excellent gift for your technical friends or for that budding scientist! If you are an experimenter or know someone who investigates such matters, this would make an excellent addition to your library or as an unforgettable gift. The downloadable HVFE eBook pdf file is almost 11MB in size and contains many experiments, photos, diagrams and technical details. Buy a copy and learn all about hydrogen generation, its uses and how to produce electrostatic repulsion. - 121 pages
- More Info
Hypnosis CD - 3 eBooks with How To Techniques and Many Cases
If you have a few minutes, you might want to read my page on hypnosis and all the amazing things associated with its application. Included is an experience I had when I hypnotized a neighbor kid when I was about 14. As well the hypnotic gaze of snakes, the discovery of 'eyebeams' which can be detected electronically, the Italian Hypnotist Robber who was caught on tape with his eyes glowing as cashiers handed over their money and remembered nothing, glamour and clouding the mind of others, several methods of trance induction and many odd cases, animal catatonia, healing, psychic phenomena, party/stage stunts, including my favorite of negative hallucination where you make your subject NOT see something...much more...if nothing else, its might be a hoot to read.
- More Info
14 Ways to Save Money on Fuel Costs
This eBook is the result of years of research into various methods to increase mileage, reduce pollution and most importantly, reduce overall fuel costs. It starts out with the simplest methods and offers progressively more detailed technologies that have been shown to reduce fuel costs. As a bonus to readers, I have salted the pages with free interesting BONUS items that correlate to the relevant page. Just filling up with one tank of gas using this or other methods explained here will pay for this eBook. Of course, many more methods are out there but I provided only the ones which I think are practical and can be studied by the average person who is looking for a way to immediately reduce their fuel costs. I am currently using two of the easier methods in my own vehicle which normally gets 18-22 mpg and now gets between 28 and 32 mpg depending on driving conditions. A tank of gas for my 1996 Ford Ranger costs about $45.00 here so I am saving around $15-$20 PER TANK, without hurting my engine and with 'greener' emissions due to a cleaner burn! The techniques provided in this ebook begin with simple things you can do NOW to improve your mileage and lower your gas costs. - eBook Download / More Info
The Physics of the Primary State of Matter
The Physics of the Primary State of Matter - published in the 1930s, Karl Schappeller described his Prime Mover, a 10-inch steel sphere with quarter-inch copper tubing coils. These were filled with a material not named specifically, but which is said to have hardened under the influence of direct current and a magnetic field [electro-rheological fluid]. With such polarization, it might be guessed to act like a dielectric capacitor and as a diode...
- More Info
$5 Alt Science MP3s to listen while working/driving/jogging
No time to sit back and watch videos? Here are 15 interesting presentations you can download for just $5 each and listen to while driving, working, jogging, etc. An easy way to learn some fascinating new things that you will find of use. Easy, cheap and simple, better than eBooks or Videos. Roughly 50MB per MP3.
- More Info
15 New Alternative Science DVDs & 15 MP3s
An assortment of alternative science videos that provide many insights and inside information from various experimenters. Also MP3s extracted from these DVDs that you can listen to while working or driving. Reference links for these lectures and workshops by Bill Beaty of Amateur Science on the Dark Side of Amateur Science, Peter Lindemann on the World of Free Energy, Norman Wootan on the History of the EV Gray motor, Dan Davidson on Shape Power and Gravity Wave Phenomena, Lee Crock on a Method for Stimulating Energy, Doug Konzen on the Konzen Pulse Motor, George Wiseman on the Water Torch and Jerry Decker on Aether, ZPE and Dielectric Nano Arrays. Your purchase of these products helps support KeelyNet, thanks!
- More Info