Saturday 24th December 2016
Keeping up With AI by Putting a Computer in Your Brain
- Kernel is a human intelligence company developing the world’s first neuroprosthesis to mimic, repair and improve cognition.
Like many in Silicon Valley, technology entrepreneur Bryan Johnson sees a future in which intelligent machines can do things like drive cars on their own and anticipate our needs before we ask.
What’s uncommon is how Johnson wants to respond: find a way to supercharge the human brain so that we can keep up with the machines.
From an unassuming office in Venice Beach, his science-fiction-meets-science start-up, Kernel, is building a tiny chip that can be implanted in the brain to help people suffering from neurological damage caused by strokes, Alzheimer’s or concussions.
Top neuroscientists who are building the chip — they call it a neuroprosthetic — hope that in the longer term, it will be able to boost intelligence, memory and other cognitive tasks.
The medical device is years in the making, Johnson acknowledges, but he can afford the time. He sold his payments company, Braintree, to PayPal for $800 million in 2013.
Kernel is cognitive enhancement of the not-gimmicky variety. The concept is based on the work of Theodore Berger, a pioneering biomedical engineer who directs the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California, and is the start-up’s chief science officer.
For over two decades, Berger has been working on building a neuroprosthetic to help people with dementia, strokes, concussions, brain injuries and Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts 1 in 9 adults over 65.
In separate studies funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency over the last several years, Berger’s chips were shown to improve recall functions in both rats and monkeys.
A year ago, Berger felt he had reached a ceiling in his research. He wanted to begin testing his devices with humans and was thinking about commercial opportunities when he got a cold call from Johnson in October 2015. For Johnson, the meeting was a culmination of a longtime obsession with intelligence and the brain.
Ten months later, the team is starting to sketch out prototypes of the device and is conducting tests with epilepsy patients in hospitals. They hope to start a clinical trial, but first they have to figure out how to make the device portable. (Right now, patients who use it are hooked up to a computer.)
Johnson recognizes that the notion of people walking around with chips implanted in their heads to make them smarter seems far-fetched, to put it mildly. He says the goal is to build a product that is widely affordable. – Elizabeth Dwoskin
Saturday 24th December 2016
Ray Kurzweil’s Prediction
- In the early 2030s, we are going to send nanorobots into the brain (via capillaries) that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today, we’ll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud. – Ray Kurzweil
The brain tech to merge humans and AI is already being developed.
In a recent Abundance 360 webinar, I interviewed Bryan Johnson, the founder of a new company called Kernel which he seeded with $100 million.
To quote Bryan, “It’s not about AI vs. humans. Rather, it’s about creating HI, or ‘Human Intelligence’: the merger of humans and AI.”
A few weeks ago, I asked Bryan about Ray’s prediction about whether we’d be able to begin having our neocortex in the cloud by the 2030s.
His response, “Oh, I think it will happen before that.”