Hi. I am Bryan Johnson. In 2013 I sold my payments company, Braintree Venmo, to PayPal for $800 million, reaching a goal I set when 21.
Following the acquisition, a single question mattered to me:
How do we collectively thrive beyond what we can even imagine?
This question seems germane as our future is chock-full of previously unimaginable possibilities; it is also more complex, existentially perilous, and demanding than any other time in human history.
I read voraciously for several years and inquired the perspectives of many. In parallel, I worked to become familiar with my biases, blindspots and other cognitive shortcomings. For kicks, I ran an experiment to become cognitively “perfect”, just as Benjamin Franklin tried to become morally perfect.
Synthesizing what I learned, three things stood out:
- A species thrives, or goes extinct, according to its rate of adaptation
- We need to evolve past our unsustainable selves if we are to survive
- The near future of our conscious existence likely sits beyond our imaginations today, necessitating us to aspire to that which we cannot currently “see”. That is hard and counter-intuitive.
With this, two areas seemed fitting given my objectives and resources:
A. We Need Accelerated Cognitive Evolution — Science, technology, and societal institutions have logged compounded gains over the centuries. Human nature remains unchanged. (Note: be careful to avoid the bias of thinking that you are your technology or the institutions around us.)
It’s possible that the fastest way to accelerate our cognitive evolution is to quantify our brains and minds. Represent cognition in numbers. We can track our steps, count calories and sequence our genome, but our brains and minds remain one of the only unquantifiable phenomena in the universe. I imagined how this may emerge, for example, via attebytes.
With our minds numerically represented, it may be possible to enable methodical and systematic evolutionary advance.
2) Predictably engineering our physical world: atoms, molecules and organisms. We can predictably engineer the writing of software — which has changed everything — being able to do the same with the physical elements that make us and the world is critical to our thriving.
With these observations, I invested $154 million dollars and got to work on a few endeavors:
- $54m to start Kernel, a neuroscience company to build non-invasive brain recording technology.
- $100m to start OS Fund, a venture fund that invests in scientist entrepreneurs predictably engineering atoms, molecules and organisms, to build a global biological immune system.
- I wrote a Plan for Humanity, as ridiculous as it sounds. We plan for seemingly everything (i.e. career, relationships, family, etc.), so why don’t we have a plan for our collective 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 and evolution, 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.