Hi. I am Bryan Johnson. In 2013 I sold my payments company, Braintree, to PayPal for $800 million, reaching a goal I’d set when I was 21 years old. Following the acquisition, a single question mattered to me:
What could I do to maximally increase the probability that the human race will survive itself AND thrive?
This question motivates me because it is not clear to me that humans will survive as a species. We are facing a future more complex, more existentially perilous, and more demanding than any other time in human history. Yet, our shared future is also chock-full of possibilities that are more fantastic than we can even imagine.
To baseline myself, I read extensively and spoke to hundreds of thoughtful and forward-looking people. Two things emerged under appreciated and resourced relative to their importance:
1) The Brain — The future of the human race lies in our ability to evolve our cognition, for everything lives downstream from our minds. That includes what we care about, how we resolve differences, the future of work, how our political and economic systems work, how we treat our earth and how we build AI.
As I looked around, I saw wonderful and essential brain-related work being done by academic, quasi-academic (Allen Institute), governmental (BRAIN Initiative/DARPA), commercial, and philanthropic groups. However, I couldn’t find a well resourced endeavor focused on building next generation tools to interface with the brain that would enable an attempt at accelerated cognitive evolution.
2) Next Generation Tools of Science — Commercial scientific advancement is essential for our survival yet is woefully underfunded relative to its importance. There are many reasons why this is the case, however as one data point, most of the wealth in the world is held or managed by people who do not have formal scientific training (i.e. 5% of the Forbes 400 billionaires have PhDs, 5 have MDs), which naturally hinders money from flowing into harder to understand but critically important science-based endeavors.
Accordingly, I invested $200 million dollars and got to work on a few endeavors:
- I invested $100m to start Kernel, a neuroscience company focused on developing non-invasive mind/body/machine/interface (MBMI) technology. We can count our steps, track our sleep, and sequence our genome, but our brain remains inaccessible to each of us in our day to day activities today. Having easy access to high quality neural activity will bring our minds into focus.
- I invested another $100m to start OS Fund, a venture fund that invests in scientist entrepreneurs building in biology, genetics, and chemistry. The largest companies of the past few decades were built on silicon, the future will be built on the predictable engineering of atoms, molecules, organisms and complex systems — because science is the new tech. Here are some examples of what the companies are doing in the world.
- I wrote a Plan for Humanity. As ridiculous as it sounds, I wrote a Plan for Humanity. We plan for seemingly everything (i.e. career, relationships, family, etc.), so why don’t we have a plan for our collective survival and thriving? After 82 drafts, a year of writing, and a decade of thinking, I published a plan for the human race to thrive. It covers our need to become future literate, the limitations of our cognition, radical human improvement, the economics of human relevance, embracing artificial intelligence, a problem prioritization framework, and updating our limiting belief systems. It’s a conversation starter.
Kernel and OS Fund are a departure from my previous experience. I have no formal scientific training and before these endeavors, I’d never been exposed to any scientific pursuit.
Despite the long odds, I consider it imperative that I try. I believe it’s imperative we all try. The future of our species depends on it.