Rewrite the OS,
Change the World
A challenge worthy of the greatest hearts and minds of our generation
By Bryan Johnson
Today I am announcing the OS Fund — $100 million of my personal capital dedicated to investing in inventors and scientists who aim to benefit humanity through quantum leap discoveries at the operating system, or OS, level.
We are at one of the most exciting moments in history. At no other time has the distance between imagination and creation been so narrow. We now have the power to build the kind of world we could previously only dream of. With new tools such as 3D printing, genomics, machine intelligence, software, synthetic biology and others, we can now make in days, weeks or months things that previous innovators couldn’t possibly create in a lifetime. Where da Vinci could sketch, today we can build. And yet, there are still so many problems that we haven’t begun to solve, so many rich opportunities that lie in wait.
The stakes have never been higher. Our increasingly interconnected world and the rapid pace of advancement have afforded us the chance to leapfrog over previous limitations while placing us in perilous and polarizing circumstances. Some countries march forward in prosperity, while others can’t meet basic needs. Our planet is running out of resources. Our healthcare, medical research and pharmaceutical industries are faced with global pandemics, drug-resistant bugs and other health crises, yet we are hampered by structural deficiencies in research, the interpretation and sharing of data, as well as testing and discovery of new treatments.
In order to affect real change for humanity at a global scale, we need to think and operate on a fundamental level: the operating system.
In the same way that computers have operating systems at their core — dictating the way a computer works and serving as a foundation upon which all applications are built — everything in life has an operating system (OS). It is at the OS level that we most frequently experience a quantum leap in progress.
Historically, germ theory, American democracy and the Internet rewrote the operating systems of healthcare, governance and our societal infrastructure.
Today, we want to use OS-level thinking to redefine medical discovery and cure aging; recreate the biological toolset of our existence; become a multi-planetary species; reinvent global transportation infrastructure; enhance our minds; safely create advanced machine intelligence; and produce abundant clean energy.
In the race toward profits, easy money and incremental gains, we have lost sight of what really matters to the future of mankind. It is time for a fresh reckoning of our unique time in history, the tools at our disposal and the real opportunity at hand.
Science and technology can help us tackle many of our most pressing challenges and opportunities, but the most ambitious inventors have few sources of capital or support to help them realize their vision. Many traditional venture capital firms and government organizations resist investing in high risk, long-term plays that promise a quantum leap in progress.
In 2013, technology startups saw $24 billion in capital infusions from venture capitalists. Of that total, $7.1 billion, or 30%, went into the Internet; $3.75 billion, or 16%, went to finance mobile startups; $3 billion, or 13%, went into media and entertainment. Artificial intelligence? $580 million, or a little over 2%. Robotics saw just $250 million — about 1%.
Generation-defining developments are often hard-won, the road to discovery paved with the remnants of trial and error. Such important endeavors require the leadership of bold thinkers who spend their lives in search of answers to questions that matter.
Until the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1919 — when British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown flew from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Galway in Ireland — few people thought it was possible. Most thought it was a suicide mission. Only a handful were brave enough to try.
In the 1950’s, America’s greatest fear — second only to the atomic bomb — was Polio. The disease plagued the nation, hitting some 50,000 people (mostly children) each year. Jonas Salk led 20,000 physicians and public health officers through a process of discovery and testing that led to the introduction of the Polio vaccine in 1957. Today, Polio is all but eradicated, and 80% of the world’s population now live in regions that are free from the disease.
When Neil Armstrong bounded off the Apollo 11 spacecraft with “one small step” in 1969, the U.S. accomplished more than one very ambitious goal. The lessons we learned about space, materials and physics led us to even greater progress. Not only have we sent more men to the moon since then, but we have also rocketed exploratory robots in search of evidence of ancient life to Mars 67 million miles away.
The United States space program of the 1960’s captured the imaginations of an entire generation. How many children from that era dreamed of becoming astronauts when they grew up? What will today’s children dream of becoming?
Right now, scientists and inventors all around the world are working on amazing things we couldn’t have imagined 50, 25, or even 10 years ago.
A company in China is using a giant 3-D printer to construct as many as ten houses per day. Biomedical devices are returning to injured people the use of their formerly paralyzed limbs. Autonomous networks of drones are delivering critical supplies to rural African villages. Materials science is undergoing a revolution as researchers can now fabricate structures that are 100 times stronger than steel, yet as thick as a mere atom.
Scientists working with genomics and synthetic biology are proving that we, our environment and our universe are essentially software, which we have the power to read, write and create. In a San Diego lab, Human Longevity, Inc. is assembling the world’s largest database of genomic information and applying advanced machine learning to reinvent medicine and cure age-related diseases. Synthetic Genomics is using synthetic biology to create a global immune system to protect us from pandemics in real-time, find a solution to super bugs and create xenotransplants of vital human organs to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each year.
More OS-level advancements are coming. In Seattle, a team is working to claim the world’s first trillion dollar asset — a low Earth-orbit asteroid — hoping that it will kick off a gold rush to space and create enduring incentives for off-planet development. Researchers and doctors are developing novel nanoparticle drug delivery technologies to target genes and cells, radically improving our ability to treat disease and maintain health. Neurologists are marching forward in developing tools to enhance our minds and unlock hidden human potential. A company in Northern California is working on the next iteration of machine intelligence; replicating the human visual cortex and creating machines with human-level intelligence in vision, language and motor control.
At the OS fund, we want to support those who see what others cannot, who chart their own course toward the future and who have the courage and determination to pursue their vision.
We want to help them turn their most audacious ideas into real, sustainable businesses that scale by providing capital, support, advice and an interdisciplinary network of like-minded people who are there to help each other.
If you are working on a quantum-leap discovery that promises to rewrite the operating systems of life, we hope to hear from you.