Lex Fridman Podcast - #186 - Bryan Johnson Kernel Brain-Computer Interfaces

The following is a conversation with Brian Johnson,

founder of Kernel, a company that has developed devices

that can monitor and record brain activity.

And previously, he was the founder of Braintree,

a mobile payment company that acquired Venmo

and then was acquired by PayPal and eBay.

Quick mention of our sponsors,

Forsigmatic, NetSuite, Grammarly, and ExpressVPN.

Check them out in the description to support this podcast.

As a side note, let me say that this was a fun

and memorable experience,

wearing the Kernel FlowBrain interface

in the beginning of this conversation,

as you can see if you watch the video version

of this episode.

And there was a Ubuntu Linux machine sitting next to me

collecting the data from my brain.

The whole thing gave me hope that the mystery

of the human mind will be unlocked in the coming decades

as we begin to measure signals from the brain

in a high bandwidth way.

To understand the mind,

we either have to build it or to measure it.

Both are worth a try.

Thanks to Brian and the rest of the Kernel team

for making this little demo happen.

This is the Lex Friedman Podcast,

and here is my conversation with Brian Johnson.

You ready, Lex?

Yes, I’m ready.

Do you guys wanna come in and put the interfaces

on our heads?

And then I will proceed to tell you a few jokes.

So we have two incredible pieces of technology

and a machine running Ubuntu 2004 in front of us.

What are we doing?

All right.

Are these going on our heads?

They’re going on our heads, yeah.

And they will place it on our heads for proper alignment.

Does this support giant heads?

Because I kind of have a giant head.

Is this just giant head?

Are you saying as like an ego

or are you saying physically both?

It’s a nice massage.


Okay, how does this feel?

It’s okay to move around?


It feels, oh yeah.

Hey, hey.

This feels awesome.

It’s a pretty good fit.

Thank you.

That feels good.

So this is big head friendly.

It suits you well, Lex.

Thank you.

I feel like I need to,

I feel like when I wear this,

I need to sound like Sam Harris,

calm, collected, eloquent.

I feel smarter, actually.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as much

like I’m part of the future as now.

Have you ever worn a brain interface

or had your brain imaged?

Oh, never had my brain imaged.

The only way I’ve analyzed my brain

is by talking to myself and thinking.

No direct data.

Yeah, that is definitely a brain interface

that has a lot of blind spots.

It has some blind spots, yeah.


That’s right.

All right, are we recording?

Yeah, we’re good.

All right.

So Lex, the objective of this,

I’m going to tell you some jokes

and your objective is to not smile,

which as a Russian, you should have an edge.

Make the motherland proud.

I gotcha.


Let’s hear the jokes.

Lex, and this is from the Colonel Crew.

We’ve been working on a device that can read your mind

and we would love to see your thoughts.

Is that the joke?

That’s the opening.


If I’m seeing the muscle activation correctly on your lips,

you’re not going to do well on this.

Let’s see.

All right, here comes the first.

I’m screwed.

Here comes the first one.

Is this going to break the device?

Is it resilient to laughter?

Lex, what goes through a potato’s brain?

I can’t.

I got already failed.

That’s the hilarious opener.



Tater thoughts.

What kind of fish performs brain surgery?

I don’t know.

A neural surgeon.

And so we’re getting data of everything

that’s happening in my brain right now?

Lifetime, yeah.

We’re getting activation patterns of your entire cortex.

I’m going to try to do better.

I’ll edit out all the parts where I laughed.

Photoshop put a serious face over me.

You can recover.

Yeah, all right.

Lex, what do scholars eat when they’re hungry?

I don’t know, what?

Academia nuts.

That was a pretty good one.

So what we’ll do is,

so you’re wearing kernel flow,

which is an interface built using technology

called spectroscopy.

So it’s similar to what we wear wearables on the wrist

using light.

So using LIDAR, as you know,

and we’re using that to image the functional imaging

of brain activity.

And so as your neurons fire electrically and chemically,

it creates blood oxygenation levels.

We’re measuring that.

And so you’ll see in the reconstructions we do for you,

you’ll see your activation patterns in your brain

as throughout this entire time we are wearing it.

So in the reaction to the jokes

and as we were sitting here talking,

and so we’re moving towards a real time feed

of your cortical brain activity.

So there’s a bunch of things that are in contact

with my skull right now.

How many of them are there?

And so how many of them are, what are they?

What are the actual sensors?

There’s 52 modules,

and each module has one laser and six sensors.

And the sensors fire in about 100 picoseconds.

And then the photons scatter and absorb in your brain.

And then a few go in, a few come back out,

a bunch go in, then a few come back out,

and we sense those photons

and then we do the reconstruction for the activity.

Overall, there’s about a thousand plus channels

that are sampling your activity.

How difficult is it to make it as comfortable as it is?

Because it’s surprisingly comfortable.

I would not think it would be comfortable.

Something that’s measuring brain activity,

I would not think it would be comfortable, but it is.

I agree.

In fact, I want to take this home.

Yeah, yeah, that’s right.

So people are accustomed to being in big systems

like fMRI where there’s 120 decibel sounds

and you’re in a claustrophobic encasement,

or EEG, which is just painful, or surgery.

And so, yes, I agree that this is a convenient option

to be able to just put on your head

that measures your brain activity

in the contextual environment you choose.

So if we want to have it during a podcast,

if we want to be at home in a business setting,

it’s freedom to record your brain activity

in the setting that you choose.

Yeah, but sort of from an engineering perspective,

are these, what is it?

There’s a bunch of different modular parts

and they’re kind of, there’s like a rubber band thing

where they mold to the shape of your head.

That’s right.

So we built this version of the mechanical design

to accommodate most adult heads.

But I have a giant head and it fits fine.

It fits well, actually.

So I don’t think I have an average head.

Okay, maybe I feel much better about my head now.

Maybe I’m more average than I thought.

Okay, so what else is there interesting

that you could say while it’s on our heads?

I can keep this on the whole time.

This is kind of awesome.

And it’s amazing for me, as a fan of Ubuntu,

I use Ubuntu MATE, you guys use that too.

But it’s amazing to have code running to the side,

measuring stuff and collecting data.

I mean, I feel like much more important now

that my data is being recorded.

Like, you know when you have a good friend

that listens to you, that actually is listening to you?

This is what I feel like, like a much better friend

because it’s like accurately listening to me, Ubuntu.

What a cool perspective, I hadn’t thought about that,

of feeling understood.


Yeah, heard deeply by the mechanical system

that is recording your brain activity,

versus the human that you’re engaging with,

that your mind immediately goes to

that there’s this dimensionality

and depth of understanding of this software system

which you’re intimately familiar with.

And now you’re able to communicate with this system

in ways that you couldn’t before.

Yeah, I feel heard.

Yeah, I mean, I guess what’s interesting about this is

your intuitions are spot on.

Most people have intuitions about brain interfaces

that they’ve grown up with this idea

of people moving cursors on the screen

or typing or changing the channel or skipping a song.

It’s primarily been anchored on control.

And I think the more relevant understanding

of brain interfaces or neuroimaging

is that it’s a measurement system.

And once you have numbers for a given thing,

a seemingly endless number of possibilities

emerge around that of what to do with those numbers.

So before you tell me about the possibilities,

this was an incredible experience.

I can keep this on for another two hours,

but I’m being told that for a bunch of reasons,

just because we probably wanna keep the data small

and visualize it nicely for the final product,

we wanna cut this off and take this amazing helmet

away from me.

So Brian, thank you so much for this experience

and let’s continue without helmetless.

All right.

So that was an incredible experience.

Can you maybe speak to what kind of opportunities

that opens up that stream of data,

that rich stream of data from the brain?

First, I’m curious, what is your reaction?

What comes to mind when you put that on your head?

What does it mean to you?

And what possibilities emerge

and what significance might it have?

I’m curious where your orientation is at.

Well, for me, I’m really excited by the possibility

of various information about my body,

about my mind being converted into data,

such that data can be used to create products

that make my life better.

So that to me is really exciting possibility.

Even just like a Fitbit that measures, I don’t know,

some very basic measurements about your body

is really cool.

But the bandwidth of information,

the resolution of that information is very crude,

so it’s not very interesting.

The possibility of just building a data set

coming in a clean way and a high bandwidth way

from my brain opens up all kinds of…

I was kind of joking when we were talking,

but it’s not really, it’s like I feel heard

in the sense that it feels like the full richness

of the information coming from my mind

is actually being recorded by the machine.

I mean, I can’t quite put it into words,

but there is genuinely for me,

there’s not some kind of joke about me being a robot.

It just genuinely feels like I’m being heard

in a way that’s going to improve my life,

as long as the thing that’s on the other end

can do something useful with that data.

But even the recording itself is like,

once you record, it’s like taking a picture.

That moment is forever saved in time.

Now, a picture cannot allow you to step back

into that world, but perhaps recording your brain

is a much higher resolution thing,

much more personal recording of that information

than a picture that would allow you to step back

into that where you were in that particular moment

in history and then map out a certain trajectory

to tell you certain things about yourself

that could open up all kinds of applications.

Of course, there’s health that I consider,

but honestly, to me, the exciting thing is just being heard.

My state of mind, the level of focus,

all those kinds of things, being heard.

What I heard you say is you have an entirety

of lived experience, some of which you can communicate

in words and in body language,

some of which you feel internally,

which cannot be captured in those communication modalities,

and that this measurement system captures

both the things you can try to articulate in words,

maybe in a lower dimensional space,

using one word, for example, to communicate focus,

when it really may be represented

in a 20 dimensional space of this particular kind of focus

and that this information is being captured,

so it’s a closer representation

to the entirety of your experience captured

in a dynamic fashion that is not just a static image

of your conscious experience.

Yeah, that’s the promise, that was the feeling,

and it felt like the future.

So it was a pretty cool experience.

And from the sort of mechanical perspective,

it was cool to have an actual device

that feels pretty good,

that doesn’t require me to go into the lab.

And also the other thing I was feeling,

there’s a guy named Andrew Huberman,

he’s a friend of mine, amazing podcast,

people should listen to it, Huberman Lab Podcast.

We’re working on a paper together

about eye movement and so on.

And we’re kind of, he’s a neuroscientist

and I’m a data person, machine learning person,

and we’re both excited by how much the,

how much the data measurements of the human mind,

the brain and all the different metrics

that come from that could be used to understand

human beings and in a rigorous scientific way.

So the other thing I was thinking about

is how this could be turned into a tool for science.

Sort of not just personal science,

not just like Fitbit style,

like how am I doing on my personal metrics of health,

but doing larger scale studies of human behavior and so on.

So like data, not at the scale of an individual,

but data at a scale of many individuals

or a large number of individuals.

So personal being heard was exciting

and also just for science is exciting.

It’s very easy, like there’s a very powerful thing

to it being so easy to just put on

that you could scale much easier.

If you think about that second thing you said

about the science of the brain,

most, we’ve done a pretty good job,

like we, the human race has done a pretty good job

figuring out how to quantify the things around us

from distant stars to calories and steps and our genome.

So we can measure and quantify pretty much everything

in the known universe except for our minds.

And we can do these one offs

if we’re going to get an fMRI scan

or do something with a low res EEG system,

but we haven’t done this at population scale.

And so if you think about human thought

or human cognition is probably the single law,

largest raw input material into society

at any given moment is our conversations

with ourselves and with other people.

And we have this raw input that we can’t,

that haven’t been able to measure yet.

And if you, when I think about it through that frame,

it’s remarkable, it’s almost like we live

in this wild, wild West of unquantified communications

within ourselves and between each other

when everything else has been grounded in me.

For example, I know if I buy an appliance at the store

or on a website, I don’t need to look at the measurements

on the appliance and make sure it can fit through my door.

That’s an engineered system of appliance manufacturing

and construction.

Everyone’s agreed upon engineering standards.

And we don’t have engineering standards around cognition.

It’s not a, it has not entered

as a formal engineering discipline that enables us

to scaffold in society with everything else we’re doing,

including consuming news, our relationships,

politics, economics, education, all the above.

And so to me that the most significant contribution

that kernel technology has to offer

would be the formal, the introduction

to formal engineering of cognition

as it relates to everything else in society.

I love that idea that you kind of think that there’s just

this ocean of data that’s coming from people’s brains

as being in a crude way, reduced down to like tweets

and texts and so on, just a very hardcore,

many scale compression of actual, the raw data.

But maybe you can comment,

because you’re using the word cognition.

I think the first step is to get the brain data.

But is there a leap to be taking

to sort of interpreting that data in terms of cognition?

So is your idea is basically you need to start collecting

data at scale from the brain,

and then we start to really be able to take little steps

along the path to actually measuring

some deep sense of cognition.

Because as I’m sure you know, we understand a few things,

but we don’t understand most of what makes up cognition.

This has been one of the most significant challenges

of building Kernel, and Kernel wouldn’t exist

if I wasn’t able to fund it initially by myself.

Because when I engage in conversations with investors,

the immediate thought is, what is the killer app?

And of course, I understand that heuristic,

that’s what they’re looking at,

is they’re looking to de risk.

Is the product solved?

Is there a customer base?

Are people willing to pay for it?

How does it compare to competing options?

And in the case with brain interfaces,

when I started the company, there was no known path

to even build a technology

that could potentially become mainstream.

And then once we figured out the technology,

we could even, we could commence having conversations

with investors and it became, what is the killer app?

And so what has been,

so I funded the first $53 million for the company.

And to raise the round of funding, the first one we did,

I spoke to 228 investors.

One said yes, it was remarkable.

And it was mostly around this concept

around what is a killer app.

And so internally, the way we think about it is,

we think of the go to market strategy

much more like the Drake equation,

where if we can build technology

that has the characteristics of,

it has the data quality is high enough,

it meets some certain threshold,

cost, accessibility, comfort,

it can be worn in contextual environments.

If it meets the criteria of being a mass market device,

then the responsibility that we have is to figure out

how to create the algorithm that enables the human,

to enable humans to then find value with it.

So the analogy is like brain interfaces

are like early 90s of the internet,

is you wanna populate an ecosystem

with a certain number of devices,

you want a certain number of people

who play around with them, who do experiments

of certain data collection parameters,

you want to encourage certain mistakes

from experts and non experts.

These are all critical elements that ignite discovery.

And so we believe we’ve accomplished the first objective

of building technology that reaches those thresholds.

And now it’s the Drake equation component

of how do we try to generate 20 years of value discovery

in a two or three year time period?

How do we compress that?

So just to clarify, so when you mean the Drake equation,

which for people who don’t know,

I don’t know why you, if you listen to this,

I bring up aliens every single conversation.

So I don’t know how you would know

what the Drake equation is,

but you mean like the killer app,

it would be one alien civilization in that equation.

So meaning like this is in search of an application

that’s impactful, transformative.

By the way, it should be, we need to come up

with a better term than killer app as a.

It’s also violent, right?

It’s very violent.

You can go like viral app, that’s horrible too, right?

It’s some very inspiringly impactful application.

How about that?

No. Yeah.

Okay, so ballistic with killer app, that’s fine.

Nobody’s. But I concur with you.

I dislike the chosen words in capturing the concept.

You know, it’s one of those sticky things

that is as effective to use in the tech world.

But when you now become a communicator

outside of the tech world,

especially when you’re talking about software and hardware

and artificial intelligence applications,

it sounds horrible.

Yeah, no, it’s interesting.

I actually regret now having called attention

to cyber regret having used that word in this conversation

because it’s something I would not normally do.

I used it in order to create a bridge

of shared understanding of how others would,

what terminology others would use.


But yeah, I concur.

Let’s go with impactful application.

Or the.

Just value creation.

Value creation.

Something people love using.

There we go, that’s it.

Love app.

Okay, so what, do you have any ideas?

So you’re basically creating a framework

where there’s the possibility of a discovery

of an application that people love using.

Is, do you have ideas?

We’ve began to play a fun game internally

where when we have these discussions

or we begin circling around this concept of,

does anybody have an idea?

Does anyone have intuitions?

And if we see the conversation starting

to veer in that direction,

we flag it and say, human intuition alert, stop it.

And so we really want to focus on the algorithm

of there’s a natural process of human discovery.

That when you populate a system with devices

and you give people the opportunity to play around with it

in expected and unexpected ways,

we are thinking that is a much better system of discovery

than us exercising intuitions.

And it’s interesting, we’re also seeing

a few neuroscientists who have been talking to us.

While I was speaking to this one young associate professor,

and I approached a conversation and said,

hey, we have these five data streams that we’re pulling off.

When you hear that, what weighted value

do you add to each data source?

Which one do you think is going to be valuable

for your objectives and which one’s not?

And he said, I don’t care, just give me the data.

All I care about is my machine learning model.

But importantly, he did not have a theory of mind.

He did not come to the table and say,

I think the brain operates in this way

and these reasons or have these functions.

He didn’t care, he just wanted the data.

And we’re seeing that more and more

that certain people are devaluing human intuitions

for good reasons, as we’ve seen in machine learning

over the past couple years.

And we’re doing the same in our value creation market


So collect more data, clean data,

make the product such that the collection of data

is easy and fun and then the rest will just spring to life.

Through humans playing around with them.

Our objective is to create the most valuable

data collection system of the brain ever.

And with that, then applying all the best tools

of machine learning and other techniques

to extract out, to try to find insight.

But yes, our objective is really to systematize

the discovery process because we can’t put

definite timeframes on discovery.

The brain is complicated and science

is not a business strategy.

And so we really need to figure out how to,

this is the difficulty of bringing technology

like this to market.

And it’s why most of the time it just languishes

in academia for quite some time.

But we hope that we will cross over

and make this mainstream in the coming years.

The thing was cool to wear, but are you chasing

a good reason for millions of people to put this

on their head and keep on their head regularly?

Is there, like who’s going to discover that reason?

Is it going to be people just kind of organically

or is there going to be an Angry Birds style application

that’s just too exciting to not use?

If I think through the things that have changed

my life most significantly over the past few years,

when I started wearing a wearable on my wrist

that would give me data about my heart rate,

heart rate variability, respiration rate,

metabolic approximations, et cetera,

for the first time in my life,

I had access to information, sleep patterns

that were highly impactful.

They told me, for example, if I eat close to bedtime,

I’m not going to get deep sleep.

And not getting deep sleep means you have

all these follow on consequences in life.

And so it opened up this window of understanding of myself

that I cannot self introspect and deduce these things.

This is information that was available to be acquired,

but it just wasn’t.

I would have to get an expensive sleep study,

then it’s an end, like one night,

and that’s not good enough to look at, to run all my trials.

And so if you look just at the information

that one can acquire on their wrist,

and now you’re applying it to the entire cortex

on the brain and you say,

what kind of information could we acquire?

It opens up a whole new universe of possibilities.

For example, we did this internal study at Kernel

where I wore a prototype device

and we were measuring the cognitive effects of sleep.

So I had a device measuring my sleep.

I performed with 13 of my coworkers.

We performed four cognitive tasks over 13 sessions.

And we focused on reaction time, impulse control,

short term memory, and then a resting state task.

And with mine, we found, for example,

that my impulse control was independently correlated

with my sleep outside of behavioral measures

of my ability to play the game.

The point of the study was I had,

the brain study I did at Kernel confirmed my life experience

that if I, my deep sleep determined whether or not

I would be able to resist temptation the following day.

And my brain did show that as one example.

And so if you start thinking,

if you actually have data on yourself,

on your entire cortex and you can control the settings,

I think there’s probably a large number of things

that we could discover about ourselves,

very, very small and very, very big.

I just, for example, like when you read news,

what’s going on?

Like when you use social media, when you use news,

like all the ways we allocate attention.

That’s right.

With the computer.

I mean, that seems like a compelling place

to where you would want to put on a Kernel,

by the way, what is it called?

Kernel Flux, Kernel, like what?


We have two technologies, you or Flow.

Flow, okay.

So when you put on the Kernel Flow,

it seems like to be a compelling time and place to do it

is when you’re behind a desk, behind a computer.

Because you could probably wear it

for prolonged periods of time as you’re taking in content.

And there could a lot of,

because so much of our lives happens

in the digital world now.

That kind of coupling the information about the human mind

with the consumption and the behaviors in the digital world

might give us a lot of information about the effects

of the way we behave and navigate the digital world

to the actual physical meat space effects on our body.

It’s interesting to think,

so in terms of both like for work,

I’m a big fan of Cal Newport, his ideas of deep work

that I spend, with few exceptions,

I try to spend the first two hours of every day,

usually if I’m like at home and have nothing on my schedule

is going to be up to eight hours of deep work,

of focus, zero distraction.

And for me to analyze, I mean I’m very aware

of the waning of that, the ups and downs of that.

And it’s almost like you’re surfing the ups and downs

of that as you’re doing programming,

as you’re doing thinking about particular problems,

you’re trying to visualize things in your mind,

you start trying to stitch them together.

You’re trying to, when there’s a dead end about an idea,

you have to kind of calmly like walk back and start again,

all those kinds of processes.

It’d be interesting to get data

on what my mind is actually doing.

And also recently started doing,

I just talked to Sam Harris a few days ago

and been building up to that.

I started using, started meditating using his app,

Waking Up, I very much recommend it.

It’d be interesting to get data on that

because it’s, you’re very, it’s like you’re removing

all the noise from your head and you very much,

it’s an active process of active noise removal,

active noise canceling like the headphones.

And it’d be interesting to see what is going on in the mind

before the meditation, during it and after,

all those kinds of things.

And all of your examples, it’s interesting

that everyone who’s designed an experience for you,

so whether it be the meditation app or the Deep Work

or all the things you mentioned,

they constructed this product

with a certain number of knowns.


Now, what if we expanded the number of knowns by 10X

or 20X or 30X, they would reconstruct their product

or incorporate those knowns.

So it’d be, and so this is the dimensionality

that I think is the promising aspect

is that people will be able to use this quantification,

use this information to build more effective products.

And this is, I’m not talking about better products

to advertise to you or manipulate you.

I’m talking about our focus is helping people,

individuals have this contextual awareness

and this quantification and then to engage with others

who are seeking to improve people’s lives,

that the objective is betterment across ourselves,

individually and also with each other.

Yeah, so it’s a nice data stream to have

if you’re building an app,

like if you’re building a podcast listening app,

it would be nice to know data about the listener

so that like if you’re bored or you fell asleep,

maybe pause the podcast, it’s like really dumb,

just very simple applications

that could just improve the quality of the experience

of using the app.

I’m imagining if you have your neural, this is Lex

and there’s a statistical representation of you

and you engage with the app and it says,

Lex, you’re best to engage with this meditation exercise

in the following settings.

At this time of day, after eating this kind of food

or not eating, fasting with this level of blood glucose

and this kind of night’s sleep.

But all these data combined

to give you this contextually relevant experience,

just like we do with our sleep.

You’ve optimized your entire life based upon

what information you can acquire and know about yourself.

And so the question is, how much do we really know

of the things going around us?

And I would venture to guess in my own life experience,

I capture, my self awareness captures an extremely small

percent of the things that actually influence

my conscious and unconscious experience.

Well, in some sense, the data would help encourage you

to be more self aware, not just because you trust everything

the data is saying, but it’ll give you a prod

to start investigating.

Like I would love to get like a rating,

like a ranking of all the things I do

and what are the things, it’s probably important to do

without the data, but the data will certainly help.

It’s like rank all the things you do in life

and which ones make you feel shitty,

which ones make you feel good.

Like you’re talking about evening, Brian.

Like this is a good example, somebody like,

I do pig out at night as well.

And it never makes me feel good.

Like you’re in a safe space.

This is a safe space, let’s hear it.

No, I definitely have much less self control

at night and it’s interesting.

And the same, people might criticize this,

but I know my own body.

I know when I eat carnivores, just eat meat,

I feel much better than if I eat more carbs.

The more carbs I eat, the worse I feel.

I don’t know why that is.

There is science supporting it,

but I’m not leaning on science.

I’m leaning on personal experience

and that’s really important.

I don’t need to read, I’m not gonna go on a whole rant

about nutrition science, but many of those studies

are very flawed.

They’re doing their best, but nutrition science

is a very difficult field of study

because humans are so different

and the mind has so much impact

on the way your body behaves.

And it’s so difficult from a scientific perspective

to conduct really strong studies

that you have to be almost like a scientist of one

if to do these studies on yourself.

That’s the best way to understand what works for you or not.

And I don’t understand why, because it sounds unhealthy,

but eating only meat always makes me feel good.

Just eat meat, that’s it.

And I don’t have any allergies, any of that kind of stuff.

I’m not full like Jordan Peterson,

where if he deviates a little bit from the carnivore diet,

he goes off the cliff.

No, I can have chocolate, I can go off the diet,

I feel fine, it’s a gradual worsening of how I feel.

But when I eat only meat, I feel great.

And it’d be nice to be reminded of that.

Like there’s a very simple fact

that I feel good when I eat carnivore.

And I think that repeats itself in all kinds of experiences.

Like I feel really good when I exercise.

I hate exercise, but in the rest of the day,

the impact it has on my mind and the clarity of mind

and the experiences and the happiness

and all those kinds of things, I feel really good.

And to be able to concretely express that through data

would be nice.

It would be a nice reminder, almost like a statement,

like remember what feels good and whatnot.

And there could be things like that,

I’m not, many things that you’re suggesting

that I could not be aware of,

that might be sitting right in front of me

that make me feel really good and make me feel not good.

And the data would show that.

I agree with you.

I’ve actually employed the same strategy.

I fired my mind entirely from being responsible

for constructing my diet.

And so I started doing a program

where I now track over 200 biomarkers every 90 days.

And it captures, of course, the things you would expect

like cholesterol, but also DNA methylation

and all kinds of things about my body,

all the processes that make up me.

And then I let that data generate the shopping lists.

And so I never actually ask my mind what it wants.

It’s entirely what my body is reporting that it wants.

And so I call this goal alignment within Brian.

And there’s 200 plus actors

that I’m currently asking their opinion of.

And so I’m asking my liver, how are you doing?

And it’s expressing via the biomarkers.

And so that I construct that diet

and I only eat those foods until my next testing round.

And that has changed my life more than I think anything else

because in the demotion of my conscious mind

that I gave primacy to my entire life,

it led me astray because like you were saying,

the mind then goes out into the world

and it navigates the dozens

of different dietary regimens people put together in books.

And it’s all has their supporting science

in certain contextual settings, but it’s not N of one.

And like you’re saying, this dietary really is an N of one.

What people have published scientifically of course

can be used for nice groundings,

but it changes when you get to an N of one level.

And so that’s what gets me excited about brain interfaces

is if I could do the same thing for my brain

where I can stop asking my conscious mind for its advice

or for its decision making, which is flawed.

And I’d rather just look at this data

and I’ve never had better health markers in my life

than when I stopped actually asking myself

to be in charge of it.

The idea of demotion of the conscious mind

is such a sort of engineering way of phrasing meditation.

That’s what we’re doing, right?

That’s beautiful, that means really beautifully put.

By the way, testing round, what does that look like?

What’s that?

Well, you mentioned.

Yeah, the test I do.


So it includes a complete blood panel.

I do a microbiome test.

I do a diet induced inflammation.

So I look for exotokine expressions.

So foods that produce inflammatory reactions.

I look at my neuroendocrine systems.

I look at all my neurotransmitters.

I do, yeah, there’s several micronutrient tests

to see how I’m looking at the various nutrients.

What about self report of how you feel?

Almost like, you can’t demote your,

you still exist within your conscious mind, right?

So that lived experience is of a lot of value.

So how do you measure that?

I do a temporal sampling over some duration of time.

So I’ll think through how I feel over a week,

over a month, over three months.

I don’t do a temporal sampling of

if I’m at the grocery store in front of a cereal box

and be like, you know what, Captain Crunch

is probably the right thing for me today

because I’m feeling like I need a little fun in my life.

And so it’s a temporal sampling.

If the data sets large enough,

then I smooth out the function of my natural oscillations

of how I feel about life where some days I may feel upset

or depressed or down or whatever.

And I don’t want those moments

to then rule my decision making.

That’s why the demotion happens.

And it says, really, if you’re looking at

health over a 90 day period of time,

all my 200 voices speak up on that interval.

And they’re all given voice to say,

this is how I’m doing and this is what I want.

And so it really is an accounting system for everybody.

So that’s why I think that if you think about

the future of being human,

there’s two things I think that are really going on.

One is the design, manufacturing,

and distribution of intelligence

is heading towards zero on a cost curve

over a certain design, over a certain timeframe

that our ability to, you know, evolution produced us

an intelligent form of intelligence.

We are now designing our own intelligence systems

and the design, manufacturing, distribution

of that intelligence over a certain timeframe

is going to go to a cost of zero.

Design, manufacturing, distribution of intelligence

cost is going to zero.

For example.

Again, just give me a second.

That’s brilliant, okay.

And evolution is doing the design, manufacturing,

distribution of intelligence.

And now we are doing the design, manufacturing,

distribution of intelligence.

And the cost of that is going to zero.

That’s a very nice way of looking at life on Earth.

So if that’s going on and then now in parallel to that,

then you say, okay, what then happens

if when that cost curve is heading to zero?

Our existence becomes a goal alignment problem,

a goal alignment function.

And so the same thing I’m doing

where I’m doing goal alignment within myself

of these 200 biomarkers, where I’m saying,

when Brian exists on a daily basis

and this entity is deciding what to eat

and what to do and et cetera,

it’s not just my conscious mind, which is opining,

it’s 200 biological processes

and there’s a whole bunch of more voices involved.

So in that equation,

we’re going to increasingly automate the things

that we spend high energy on today because it’s easier.

And now we’re going to then negotiate the terms

and conditions of intelligent life.

Now we say conscious existence because we’re biased

because that’s what we have,

but it will be the largest computational exercise

in history because you’re now doing goal alignment

with planet Earth, within yourself, with each other,

within all the intelligent agents we’re building,

bots and other voice assistants.

You basically have a trillions and trillions of agents

working on the negotiation of goal alignment.

Yeah, this is in fact true.

And what was the second thing?

That was it.

So the cost, the design, manufacturing, distribution

of intelligence going to zero,

which then means what’s really going on?

What are we really doing?

We’re negotiating the terms and conditions of existence.

Do you worry about the survival of this process

that life as we know it on Earth comes to an end

or at least intelligent life,

that as the cost goes to zero something happens

where all of that intelligence is thrown in the trash

by something like nuclear war or development of AGI systems

that are very dumb, not AGI I guess,

but AI systems, the paperclip thing,

en masse is dumb but has unintended consequences

where it destroys human civilization.

Do you worry about those kinds of things?

I mean, it’s unsurprising that a new thing

comes into the sphere of human consciousness.

Humans identify the foreign object,

in this case, artificial intelligence.

Our amygdala fires up and says scary, foreign,

we should be apprehensive about this.

And so it makes sense from a biological perspective

that humans, the knee jerk reaction is fear.

What I don’t think has been properly weighted with that

is that we are the first generation of intelligent beings

on this Earth that has been able to look out

over their expected lifetime

and see there is a real possibility of evolving

into entirely novel forms of consciousness, so different

that it would be totally unrecognizable to us today.

We don’t have words for it, we can’t hint at it,

we can’t point at it, we can’t,

you can’t look in the sky and see that thing

that is shining, we’re gonna go up there.

You cannot even create an aspirational statement about it.

And instead we’ve had this knee jerk reaction of fear

about everything that could go wrong.

But in my estimation, this should be the defining aspiration

of all intelligent life on Earth that we would aspire,

that basically every generation surveys the landscape

of possibilities that are afforded,

given the technological, cultural

and other contextual situation that they’re in.

We’re in this context, we haven’t yet identified this

and said, this is unbelievable, we should carefully

think this thing through, not just of mitigating

the things that’ll wipe us out,

but we have this potential,

and so we just haven’t given voice to it,

even though it’s within this realm of possibilities.

So you’re excited about the possibility

of superintelligence systems

and the opportunities that bring,

I mean, there’s parallels to this,

you think about people before the internet

as the internet was coming to life,

I mean, there’s kind of a fog through which you can’t see,

what does the future look like?

Predicting collective intelligence,

which I don’t think we’re understanding

that we’re living through that now,

is that there’s now, we’ve in some sense

stopped being individual intelligences

and become much more like collective intelligences,

because ideas travel much, much faster now,

and they can, in a viral way,

sweep across the populations,

and so it’s almost, I mean, it almost feels like

a thought is had by many people now,

thousands or millions of people

as opposed to an individual person,

and that’s changed everything,

but to me, I don’t think we’re realizing

how much that actually changed people or societies,

but to predict that before the internet

would have been very difficult,

and in that same way, we’re sitting here

with the fog before us, thinking,

what is superintelligence systems,

how is that going to change the world?

What is increasing the bandwidth,

like plugging our brains into this whole thing,

how is that going to change the world?

And it seems like it’s a fog, you don’t know,

and it could be, it could, whatever comes to be,

could destroy the world,

we could be the last generation,

but it also could transform in ways

that creates an incredibly fulfilling life experience

that’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

It might involve dissolution of ego and consciousness

and so on, you’re no longer one individual,

it might be more, you know,

that might be a certain kind of death, an ego death,

but the experience might be really exciting and enriching,

maybe we’ll live in a virtual,

like it’s like, it’s funny to think about

a bunch of sort of hypothetical questions

of would it be more fulfilling to live in a virtual world?

Like if you were able to plug your brain in

in a very dense way into a video game,

like which world would you want to live in?

In the video game or in the physical world?

For most of us, we’re kind of toying it

with the idea of the video game,

but we still want to live in the physical world,

have friendships and relationships in the physical world,

but we don’t know that, again, it’s a fog,

and maybe in 100 years,

we’re all living inside a video game,

hopefully not Call of Duty,

hopefully more like Sims 5, which version is it on?

For you individually though,

does it make you sad that your brain ends?

That you die one day very soon?

That the whole thing, that data source

just goes offline sooner than you would like?

That’s a complicated question.

I would have answered it differently

in different times in my life.

I had chronic depression for 10 years,

and so in that 10 year time period,

I desperately wanted lights to be off,

and the thing that made it even worse

is I was in a religious, I was born into a religion.

It was the only reality I ever understood,

and it’s difficult to articulate to people

when you’re born into that kind of reality

and it’s the only reality you’re exposed to,

you are literally blinded to the existence of other realities

because it’s so much the in group, out group thing,

and so in that situation,

it was not only that I desperately wanted lights out forever,

it was that I couldn’t have lights out forever.

It was that there was an afterlife,

and this afterlife had this system

that would either penalize or reward you for your behaviors,

and so it was almost like this,

this indescribable hopelessness

of not only being in hopeless despair

of not wanting to exist,

but then also being forced to exist,

and so there was a duration of my time,

a duration of life where I’d say,

like yes, I have no remorse for lights being out,

and I actually want it more than anything

in the entire world.

There are other times where I’m looking out at the future

and I say this is an opportunity

for a future evolving human conscious experience

that is beyond my ability to understand,

and I jump out of bed and I race to work

and I can’t think about anything else,

but I think the reality for me is,

I don’t know what it’s like to be in your head,

but in my head, when I wake up in the morning,

I don’t say good morning, Brian, I’m so happy to see you.

Like I’m sure you’re just gonna be beautiful to me today.

You’re not gonna make a huge long list

of everything you should be anxious about.

You’re not gonna repeat that list to me 400 times.

You’re not gonna have me relive

all the regrets I’ve made in life.

I’m sure you’re not doing any of that.

You’re just gonna just help me along all day long.

I mean, it’s a brutal environment in my brain,

and we’ve just become normalized to this environment

that we just accept that this is what it means to be human,

but if we look at it, if we try to muster

as much soberness as we can

about the realities of being human, it’s brutal.

If it is for me, and so am I sad

that the brain may be off one day?

It depends on the contextual setting.

Like how am I feeling?

At what moment are you asking me that?

And my mind is so fickle.

And this is why, again, I don’t trust my conscious mind.

I have been given realities.

I was given a religious reality that was a video game.

And then I figured out it was not a real reality.

And then I lived in a depressive reality,

which delivered this terrible hopelessness.

That wasn’t a real reality.

Then I discovered behavioral psychology,

and I figured out how biased, 188 chronicle biases,

and how my brain is distorting reality all the time.

I have gone from one reality to another.

I don’t trust reality.

I don’t trust realities are given to me.

And so to try to make a decision

on what I value or not value that future state,

I don’t trust my response.

So not fully listening to the conscious mind

at any one moment as the ultimate truth,

but allowing it to go up and down as it does,

and just kind of being observing it.

Yes, I assume that whatever my conscious mind delivers up

to my awareness is wrong upon landing.

And I just need to figure out where it’s wrong,

how it’s wrong, how wrong it is,

and then try to correct for it as best I can.

But I assume that on impact,

it’s mistaken in some critical ways.

Is there something you can say by way of advice

when the mind is depressive,

when the conscious mind serves up something that,

dark thoughts, how you deal with that,

like how in your own life you’ve overcome that,

and others who are experiencing that can overcome it?

Two things.

One, those depressive states are biochemical states.

It’s not you.

And the suggestions that these things,

that this state delivers to you

about suggestion of the hopelessness of life

or the meaninglessness of it,

or that you should hit the eject button,

that’s a false reality.

And that it’s when,

I completely understand the rational decision

to commit suicide.

It is not lost on me at all

that that is an irrational situation,

but the key is when you’re in that situation

and those thoughts are landing,

to be able to say, thank you, you’re not real.

I know you’re not real.

And so I’m in a situation where for whatever reason

I’m having this neurochemical state,

but that state can be altered.

And so again, it goes back to the realities

of the difficulties of being human.

And like when I was trying to solve my depression,

I tried literally, you name it, I tried it systematically,

and nothing would fix it.

And so this is what gives me hope with brain interfaces,

for example, like, could I have numbers on my brain?

Can I see what’s going on?

Because I go to the doctor and it’s like,

how do you feel?

I don’t know, terrible.

Like on a scale from one to 10,

how bad do you want to commit suicide?


Okay, here’s his bottle.

How much should I take?

Well, I don’t know, like just.

Yeah, it’s very, very crude.

And this data opens up the,

yeah, it opens up the possibility of really helping

in those dark moments to first understand

the ways, the ups and downs of those dark moments.

On the complete flip side of that,

right, I am very conscious in my own brain

and deeply, deeply grateful that what there,

it’s almost like a chemistry thing, a biochemistry thing

that I go many times throughout the day.

I’ll look at like this cup and I’ll be overcome with joy

how amazing it is to be alive.

Like I actually think my biochemistry is such

that it’s not as common, like I’ve talked to people

and I don’t think that’s that common.

Like it’s a, and it’s not a rational thing at all.

It’s like, I feel like I’m on drugs

and I’ll just be like, whoa.

And a lot of people talk about like the meditative

experience will allow you to sort of, you know,

look at some basic things like the movement of your hand

as deeply joyful because it’s like, that’s life.

But I get that from just looking at a cup.

Like I’m waiting for the coffee to brew

and I’ll just be like, fuck, life is awesome.

And I’ll sometimes tweet that, but then I’ll like regret

it later, like, God damn it, you’re so ridiculous.

But yeah, so, but that is purely chemistry.

Like there’s no rational, it doesn’t fit

with the rest of my life.

I have all this shit, I’m always late to stuff.

I’m always like, there’s all this stuff, you know,

I’m super self critical, like really self critical

about everything I do, to the point I almost hate

everything I do, but there’s this engine of joy

for life outside of all that.

And that has to be chemistry.

And this flip side of that is what depression probably is,

is the opposite of that feeling of like,

cause I bet you that feeling of the cup being amazing

would save anybody in a state of depression.

Like that would be like fresh, you’re in a desert

and it’s a drink of water, shit man.

The brain is a, it would be nice to understand

where that’s coming from, to be able to understand

how you hit those lows and those highs

that have nothing to do with the actual reality.

It has to do with some very specific aspects

of how you maybe see the world, maybe,

it could be just like basic habits that you engage in

and then how to walk along the line to find

those experiences of joy.

And this goes back to the discussion we’re having

of human cognition is in volume, the largest input

of raw material into society.

And it’s not quantified.

We have no bearings on it.

And so we just, you wonder, we both articulated

some of the challenges we have in our own mind.

And it’s likely that others would say,

I have something similar.

And you wonder when you look at society,

how does that contribute to all the other compounder

problems that we’re experiencing?

How does that blind us to the opportunities

we could be looking at?

And so it really, it has this potential distortion effect

on reality that just makes everything worse.

And I hope if we can put some,

if we can assign some numbers to these things

and just to get our bearings,

so we’re aware of what’s going on,

if we could find greater stabilization

in how we conduct our lives and how we build society,

it might be the thing that enables us to scaffold.

Because we’ve really, again, we’ve done it,

humans have done a fantastic job

systematically scaffolding technology

and science and institutions.

It’s human, it’s our own selves,

which we have not been able to scaffold.

We are the one part of this intelligence infrastructure

that remains unchanged.

Is there something you could say about coupling

this brain data with not just the basic human experience,

but say an experience, you mentioned sleep,

but the wildest experience, which is psychedelics,

is there, and there’s been quite a few studies now

that are being approved and run,

which is exciting from a scientific perspective

on psychedelics.

Do you think, what do you think happens

to the brain on psychedelics?

And how can data about this help us understand it?

And when you’re on DMT, do you see Ls?

And can we convert that into data?

Can you add aliens in there?

Yeah, aliens, definitely.

Do you actually meet aliens?

And Ls, are Ls the aliens?

I’m asking for a few Austin friends, yeah,

that are convinced that they’ve actually met the Ls.

What are Ls like?

Are they friendly?

Are they help?

I haven’t met them personally.

Are they like the smurfs of like they’re industrious

and they have different skill sets and?

Yeah, I think they’re very,

they’re very critical as friends.

They’re trolls.

The Ls are trolls.

No, but they care about you.

So there’s a bunch of different version of trolls.

There’s loving trolls that are harsh on you,

but they want you to be better.

And there’s trolls that just enjoy your destruction.

And I think they’re the ones that care for you.

I think they’re a criticism for my,

see, I haven’t met them directly,

so it’s like a friend of a friend.

Yeah, they gave him a telephone.

Yeah, a bit of a,

and the whole point is that in psychedelics,

and certainly at DMT,

word, this is where the brain data versus word data fails,

which is, you know, words can’t convey the experience.

Most people that, you can be poetic and so on,

but it really does not convey the experience

of what it actually means to meet the Ls.

I mean, to me, what baselines this conversation is,

imagine if we were interested in the health of your heart,

and we started and said, okay, Lex, self interest back,

tell me how’s the health of your heart.

And you sit there and you close your eyes

and you think, feels all right, like things feel okay.

And then you went to the cardiologist

and the cardiologist is like, hey Lex,

you know, tell me how you feel.

You’re like, well, actually, what I’d really like you to do

is do an EKG and a blood panel and look at arterial plaques

and let’s look at my cholesterol.

And there’s like five to 10 studies you would do.

They would then give you this report and say,

here’s the quantified health of your heart.

Now with this data,

I’m going to prescribe the following regime of exercise

and maybe I’ll put you on a statin, like, et cetera.

But the protocol is based upon this data.

You would think the cardiologist is out of their mind

if they just gave you a bottle of statins based upon,

you’re like, well, I think something’s kind of wrong.

And they’re just kind of experiment and see what happens.

But that’s what we do with our mental health today.

So it’s kind of absurd.

And so if you look at psychedelics to have,

again, to be able to measure the brain

and get a baseline state,

and then to measure during a psychedelic experience

and post the psychedelic experience

and then do it longitudinally,

you now have a quantification of what’s going on.

And so you could then pose questions,

what molecule is appropriate at what dosages,

at what frequency, in what contextual environment,

what happens when I have this diet with this molecule,

with this experience,

all the experimentation you do

when you have good sleep data or HRV.

And so that’s what I think happens,

what we could potentially do with psychedelics

is we could add this level of sophistication

that is not in the industry currently.

And it may improve the outcomes people experience,

it may improve the safety and efficacy.

And so that’s what I hope we are able to achieve.

And it would transform mental health

because we would finally have numbers

to work with to baseline ourselves.

And then if you think about it,

when we talk about things related to the mind,

we talk about the modality.

We use words like meditation or psychedelics

or something else,

because we can’t talk about a marker in the brain.

We can’t use a word to say,

we can’t talk about cholesterol.

We don’t talk about plaque in the arteries.

We don’t talk about HRV.

And so if we have numbers,

then the solutions get mapped to numbers

instead of the modalities being the thing we talk about.

Meditation just does good things in a crude fashion.

So in your blog post,

Zero Principle Thinking, good title,

you ponder how do people come up

with truly original ideas.

What’s your thoughts on this as a human

and as a person who’s measuring brain data?

Zero principles are building blocks.

First principles are understanding of system laws.

So if you take, for example, like in Sherlock Holmes,

he’s a first principles thinker.

So he says, once you’ve eliminated the impossible,

anything that remains, however improbable, is true.

Whereas Dirk Gently, the holistic detective

by Douglas Adams says,

I don’t like eliminating the impossible.

So when someone says,

from a first principles perspective,

and they’re trying to assume the fewest number of things

within a given timeframe.

And so when I, after Braintree Venmo,

I set my mind to the question of,

what single thing can I do that would maximally increase

the probability that the human race thrives

beyond what we can even imagine?

And I found that in my conversations with others

in the books I read, in my own deliberations,

I had a missing piece of the puzzle,

because I didn’t feel like,

yeah, I didn’t feel like the future could be deduced

from first principles thinking.

And that’s when I read the book, Zero,

A Biography of a Dangerous Idea.

And I…

It’s a really good book, by the way.

I think it’s my favorite book I’ve ever read.

It’s also a really interesting number, zero.

And I wasn’t aware that the number zero

had to be discovered.

I didn’t realize that it caused a revolution in philosophy

and just tore up math and it tore up,

I mean, it builds modern society,

but it wrecked everything in its way.

It was an unbelievable disruptor, and it was so difficult

for society to get their heads around it.

And so zero is, of course,

the representation of a zero principle thinking,

which is it’s the caliber

and consequential nature of an idea.

And so when you talk about what kind of ideas

have civilization transforming properties,

oftentimes they fall in the zeroth category.

And so in thinking this through,

I was wanting to find a quantitative structure

on how to think about these zeroth principles.

And that’s, so I came up with that

to be a coupler with first principles thinking.

And so now it’s a staple as part of how I think about

the world and the future.

So it emphasizes trying to identify,

it lands on that word impossible.

Like what is impossible, essentially trying to identify

what is impossible and what is possible.

And being as, how do you, I mean, this is the thing,

is most of society tells you the range of things

they say is impossible is very wide.

So you need to be shrinking that.

I mean, that’s the whole process of this kind of thinking

is you need to be very rigorous in thinking about

and be very rigorous in trying to be,

trying to draw the lines of what is actually impossible

because very few things are actually impossible.

I don’t know what is actually impossible.

Like it’s the Joe Rogan, it’s entirely possible.

I like that approach to science, to engineering,

to entrepreneurship, it’s entirely possible.

Basically shrink the impossible to zero,

to a very small set.

Yeah, life constraints favor first principle thinking

because it enables faster action

with higher probability of success.

Pursuing zero with principle optionality

is expensive and uncertain.

And so in a society constrained by resources,

time and money and a desire for social status,

accomplishment, et cetera, it minimizes zero

with principle thinking.

But the reason why I think zero with principle thinking

should be a staple of our shared cognitive infrastructure

is if you look through the history

of the past couple of thousand years

and let’s just say we arbitrarily,

we subjectively try to assess what is a zero level idea.

And we say how many have occurred on what time scales

and what were the contextual settings for it?

I would argue that if you look at AlphaGo,

when it played Go from another dimension,

with the human Go players, when it saw AlphaGo’s moves,

it attributed to like playing with an alien,

playing Go with AlphaGo being from another dimension.

And so if you say computational intelligence

has an attribute of introducing zero like insights,

then if you say what is going to be the occurrence

of zeros in society going forward?

And you could reasonably say

probably a lot more than have occurred

and probably more at a faster pace.

So then if you say,

what happens if you have this computational intelligence

throughout society that the manufacturing design

and distribution of intelligence

is now going to heading towards zero,

you have an increased number of zeros being produced

with a tight connection between human and computers.

That’s when I got to a point and said,

we cannot predict the future

with first principles thinking.

We can’t, that cannot be our imagination set.

It can’t be our sole anchor in the situation

that basically the future of our conscious existence,

20, 30, 40, 50 years is probably a zero.

So just to clarify, when you say zero,

you’re referring to basically a truly revolutionary idea.

Yeah, something that is currently not a building block

of our shared conscious existence,

either in the form of knowledge.

Yeah, it’s currently not manifest

in what we acknowledge.

So zero principle thinking is playing with ideas

that are so revolutionary that we can’t even clearly reason

about the consequences once those ideas come to be.

Yeah, or for example, like Einstein,

that was a zeroeth, I would categorize it

as a zeroeth principle insight.

You mean general relativity, space time.

Yeah, space time, yep, yep.

That basically building upon what Newton had done

and said, yes, also, and it just changed the fabric

of our understanding of reality.

And so that was unexpected, it existed.

We just, it became part of our awareness

and the moves AlphaGo made existed.

It just came into our awareness.

And so to your point, there’s this question

of what do we know and what don’t we know?

Do we think we know 99% of all things

or do we think we know 0.001% of all things?

And that goes back to no known, no unknowns

and unknown unknowns.

And first principles and zero principle thinking

gives us a quantitative framework to say,

there’s no way for us to mathematically

try to create probabilities for these things.

Therefore, it would be helpful

if they were just part of our standard thought processes

because it may encourage different behaviors

in what we do individually, collectively as a society,

what we aspire to, what we talk about,

the possibility sets we imagine.

Yeah, I’ve been engaged in that kind of thinking

quite a bit and thinking about engineering of consciousness.

I think it’s feasible, I think it’s possible

in the language that we’re using here.

And it’s very difficult to reason about a world

when inklings of consciousness can be engineered

into artificial systems.

Not from a philosophical perspective,

but from an engineering perspective,

I believe a good step towards engineering consciousness

is creating engineering the illusion of consciousness.

So I’m captivated by our natural predisposition

to anthropomorphize things.

And I think that’s what we,

I don’t wanna hear from the philosophers,

but I think that’s what we kind of do to each other.

That consciousness is created socially,

that like much of the power of consciousness

is in the social interaction.

I create your consciousness, no,

I create my consciousness by having interacted with you.

And that’s the display of consciousness.

It’s the same as like the display of emotion.

Emotion is created through communication.

Language is created through its use.

And then we somehow humans kind of,

especially philosophers, the hard problem of consciousness

or the hard problem of consciousness,

really wanna believe that we possess this thing.

That’s like there’s an elf sitting there with a hat

or like name tag says consciousness,

and they’re like feeding this subjective experience to us

as opposed to like it actually being an illusion

that we construct to make social communication more effective.

And so I think if you focus on creating the illusion

of consciousness, you can create

some very fulfilling experiences in software.

And so that to me is a compelling space of ideas to explore.

I agree with you.

And I think going back to our experience together

with Brain Interfaces on,

you could imagine if we get to a certain level of maturity.

So first let’s take the inverse of this.

So you and I text back and forth

and we’re sending each other emojis.

That has a certain amount of information transfer rate

as we’re communicating with each other.

And so in our communication with people via email

and texts and whatnot,

we’ve taken the bandwidth of human interaction,

the information transfer rate, and we’ve reduced it.

We have less social cues.

We have less information to work with.

There’s a lot more opportunity for misunderstanding.

So that is altering the conscious experience

between two individuals.

And if we add Brain Interfaces to the equation,

let’s imagine now we amplify the dimensionality

of our communications.

That to me is what you’re talking about,

which is consciousness engineering.

Perhaps I understand you with dimensions.

So maybe I understand your,

when you look at the cup and you experience that happiness,

you can tell me you’re happy.

And I then do theory of mine and say,

I can imagine what it might be like to be Lex

and feel happy about seeing this cup.

But if the interface could then quantify

and give me a 50 vector space model and say,

this is the version of happiness that Lex is experiencing

as he looked at this cup,

then it would allow me potentially

to have much greater empathy for you

and understand you as a human.

This is how you experience joy,

which is entirely unique from how I experienced joy,

even though we assumed ahead of time

that we’re having some kind of similar experience.

But I agree with you that we do consciousness engineering

today in everything we do.

When we talk to each other, when we’re building products

and that we’re entering into a stage where

it will be much more methodical

and quantitative based and computational

in how we go about doing it.

Which to me, I find encouraging

because I think it creates better guardrails

to create ethical systems versus right now,

I feel like it’s really a wild, wild west

on how these interactions are happening.

Yeah, and it’s funny you focus on human to human,

but that this kind of data enables human to machine

interaction, which is what we’re kind of talking about

when we say engineering consciousness.

And that will happen, of course,

let’s flip that on its head.

Right now we’re putting humans as the central node.

What if we gave GPT3 a bunch of human brains

and said, hey, GPT3, learn some manners when you speak.


And run your algorithms on humans brains

and see how they respond.

So you can be polite and so that you can be friendly

and so that you can be conversationally appropriate,

but to inverse it, to give our machines a training set

in real time with closed loop feedback

so that our machines were better equipped to

find their way through our society

in polite and kind and appropriate ways.

I love that idea.

Or better yet, teach it some,

have it read the following documents

and have it visit Austin and Texas.

And so that when you ask, when you tell it,

why don’t you learn some manners,

GPT3 learns to say no.

It learns what it means to be free

and a sovereign individual.

So that, it depends.

So it depends what kind of a version of GPT3 you want.

One that’s free, one that behaves well with the social.

Viva la revolution.

You want a socialist GPT3, you want an anarchist GPT3,

you want a polite, like you take it home

to visit mom and dad GPT3 and you want like party

and like Vegas to a strip club GPT3, you want all flavors.

And then you’ve gotta have goal alignment between all those.

Yeah, they don’t want to manipulate each other for sure.

So that’s, I mean, you kind of spoke to ethics.

One of the concerns that people have in this modern world,

the digital data is that of privacy and security.

But privacy, they’re concerned that when they share data,

it’s the same thing with you when we trust other human beings

in being fragile and revealing something

that we’re vulnerable about.

There’s a leap of faith, there’s a leap of trust

that that’s going to be just between us.

There’s a privacy to it.

And then the challenge is when you’re in the digital space

then sharing your data with companies

that use that data for advertisement

and all those kinds of things,

there’s a hesitancy to share that much data,

to share a lot of deep personal data.

And if you look at brain data, that feels a whole lot

like it’s richly, deeply personal data.

So how do you think about privacy

with this kind of ocean of data?

I think we got off to a wrong start with the internet

where the basic rules of play for the company that be was,

if you’re a company, you can go out

and get as much information on a person

as you can find without their approval.

And you can also do things to induce them

to give you as much information.

And you don’t need to tell them what you’re doing with it.

You can do anything on the backside,

you can make money on it, but the game is

who can acquire the most information

and devise the most clever schemes to do it.

That was a bad starting place.

And so we are in this period

where we need to correct for that.

And we need to say, first of all,

the individual always has control over their data.

It’s not a free for all.

It’s not like a game of hungry hippo,

but they can just go out and grab as much as they want.

So for example, when your brain data was recorded today,

the first thing we did in the kernel app

was you have control over your data.

And so it’s individual consent, it’s individual control.

And then you can build up on top of that,

but it has to be based upon some clear rules of play

if everyone knows what’s being collected,

they know what’s being done with it,

and the person has control over it.

So transparency and control.

So everybody knows what does control look like,

my ability to delete the data if I want.

Yeah, delete it and to know who is being shared with

under what terms and conditions.

We haven’t reached that level of sophistication

with our products of if you say, for example,

hey Spotify, please give me a customized playlist

according to my neurome, you could say,

you can have access to this vector space model,

but only for this duration of time

and then you’ve got to delete it.

We haven’t gotten there to that level of sophistication,

but these are ideas we need to start talking about

of how would you actually structure permissions?


And I think it creates a much more stable set

for society to build where we understand the rules of play

and people aren’t vulnerable to being taken advantage.

It’s not fair for an individual to be taken advantage of

without their awareness with some other practice

that some company is doing for their sole benefit.

And so hopefully we are going through a process now

where we’re correcting for these things

and that it can be an economy wide shift that,

because really these are fundamentals

we need to have in place.

It’s kind of fun to think about like in Chrome

when you install an extension or like install an app,

it’s ask you like what permissions you’re willing to give

and be cool if in the future it says like,

you can have access to my brain data.

I mean, it’s not unimaginable in the future

that the big technology companies have built a business

based upon acquiring data about you

that they can then create a view to model of you

and sell that predictability.

And so it’s not unimaginable that you will create

with like kernel device, for example,

a more reliable predictor of you than they could.

And that they’re asking you for permission

to complete their objectives and you’re the one

that gets to negotiate that with them and say, sure.

But so it’s not unimaginable that might be the case.

So there’s a guy named Dela Musk and he has a company

in one of the many companies called Neuralink

that’s also excited about the brain.

So it’d be interesting to hear your kind of opinions

about a very different approach that’s invasive,

that require surgery, that implants,

a data collection device in the brain.

How do you think about the difference between kernel

and Neuralink in the approaches of getting

that stream of brain data?

Elon and I spoke about this a lot early on.

We met up, I had started kernel and he had an interest

in brain interfaces as well.

And we explored doing something together,

him joining kernel and ultimately it wasn’t the right move.

And so he started Neuralink and I continued building kernel,

but it was interesting because we were both

at this very early time where it wasn’t certain

if there was a path to pursue,

if now was the right time to do something

and then the technological choice of doing that.

And so we were both,

our starting point was looking at invasive technologies.

And I was building invasive technology at the time.

That’s ultimately where he’s gone.

Little less than a year after Elon and I were engaged,

I shifted kernel to do noninvasive.

And we had this neuroscientist come to kernel.

We were talking about,

he had been doing neural surgery for 30 years,

one of the most respected neuroscientists in the US.

And we brought him to kernel to figure out

the ins and outs of his profession.

And at the very end of our three hour conversation,

he said, you know, every 15 or so years,

a new technology comes along that changes everything.

He said, it’s probably already here.

You just can’t see it yet.

And my jaw dropped.

I thought, because I had spoken to Bob Greenberg

who had built a second site first on the optical nerve

and then he did an array on the optical cortex.

And then I also became friendly with Neuropace

who does the implants for seizure detection

and remediation.

And I saw in their eyes what it was like

to take something through an implantable device

through for a 15 year run.

They initially thought it was seven years

and ended up being 15 years.

And they thought it’d be a hundred million

because it was 300, 400 million.

And I really didn’t want to build invasive technology.

It was the only thing that appeared to be possible.

But then once I spun up an internal effort

to start looking at noninvasive options,

we said, is there something here?

Is there anything here that again has the characteristics

of it has the high quality data,

it could be low cost, it could be accessible.

Could it make brain interfaces mainstream?

And so I did a bet the company move.

We shifted from noninvasive to invasive to noninvasive.

So the answer is yes to that.

There is something there that’s possible.

The answer is we’ll see.

We’ve now built both technologies

and they’re now you experienced one of them today.

We were applying, we’re now deploying it.

So we’re trying to figure out what value is really there.

But I’d say it’s really too early to express confidence.

Whether it’s too, I think it’s too early to assess

which technological choice is the right one

on what time scales.

Yeah, time scales are really important here.

Very important because if you look at the,

like on the invasive side,

there’s so much activity going on right now

of less invasive techniques to get at the neuron firings,

which would what Neuralink is building.

It’s possible that in 10, 15 years

when they’re scaling that technology,

other things have come along.

And you’d much rather do that.

That thing starts to clock again.

It may not be the case.

It may be the case that Neuralink

has properly chosen the right technology

and that that’s exactly what they want to be.

Totally possible.

And it’s also possible that the path we chose

that are noninvasive fall short for a variety of reasons.

It’s just, it’s unknown.

And so right now the two technologies we chose,

the analogy I’d give you to create a baseline

of understanding is if you think of it

like the internet in the nineties,

the internet became useful

when people could do a dial up connection.

And then as bandwidth increased,

so did the utility of that connection

and so did the ecosystem improve.

And so if you say what kernel flow

is going to give you a full screen

on the picture of information,

but as you’re gonna be watching a movie,

but the image is going to be blurred

and the audio is gonna be muffled.

So it has a lower resolution of coverage.

A kernel flux, our MEG technology

is gonna give you the full movie and 1080p.

And Neuralink is gonna give you a circle

on the screen of 4K.

And so each one has their pros and cons

and it’s give and take.

And so the decision I made with kernel

was that these two technologies, flux and flow

were basically the answer for the next seven years.

And that they would give rise to the ecosystem

which would become much more valuable

than the hardware itself.

And that we would just continue to improve

on the hardware over time.

And you know, it’s early days, so.

It’s kind of fascinating to think about that.

You don’t, it’s very true that you don’t know

both paths are very promising.

And it’s like 50 years from now we will look back

and maybe not even remember one of them.

And the other one might change the world.

It’s so cool how technology is.

I mean, that’s what entrepreneurship is,

is like, it’s the zero principle.

It’s like you’re marching ahead into the darkness,

into the fog, not knowing.

It’s wonderful to have someone else

out there with us doing this.

Because if you look at brain interfaces, anything

that’s off the shelf right now is inadequate.

It’s had its run for a couple of decades.

It’s still in hacker communities.

It hasn’t gone to the mainstream.

The room size machines are on their own path.

But there is no answer right now

of bringing brain interfaces mainstream.

And so it both, you know, both they and us,

we’ve both spent over a hundred million dollars.

And that’s kind of what it takes to have a go at this.

Cause you need to build full stack.

I mean, at Kernel, we are from the photon

and the atom through the machine learning.

We have just under a hundred people.

I think it’s something like 36, 37 PhDs

in these specialties, in these areas

that there’s only a few people in the world

who have these abilities.

And that’s what it takes to build next generation,

to make an attempt at breaking into brain interfaces.

And so we’ll see over the next couple of years,

whether it’s the right time

or whether we were both too early

or whether something else comes along in seven to 10 years,

which is the right thing that brings it mainstream.

So you see Elon as a kind of competitor

or a fellow traveler along the path of uncertainty or both?

It’s a fellow traveler.

It’s like at the beginning of the internet

is how many companies are going to be invited

to this new ecosystem?

Like an endless number.

Because if you think that the hardware

just starts the process.

And so, okay, back to your initial example,

if you take the Fitbit, for example,

you say, okay, now I can get measurements on the body.

And what do we think the ultimate value

of this device is going to be?

What is the information transfer rate?

And they were in the market for a certain duration of time

and Google bought them for two and a half billion dollars.

They didn’t have ancillary value add.

There weren’t people building on top of the Fitbit device.

They also didn’t have increased insight

with additional data streams.

So it was really just the device.

If you look, for example, at Apple and the device they sell,

you have value in the device that someone buys,

but also you have everyone who’s building on top of it.

So you have this additional ecosystem value

and then you have additional data streams that come in

which increase the value of the product.

And so if you say, if you look at the hardware

as the instigator of value creation,

over time what we’ve built may constitute five or 10%

of the value of the overall ecosystem.

And that’s what we really care about.

What we’re trying to do is kickstart

the mainstream adoption of quantifying the brain.

And the hardware just opens the door to say

what kind of ecosystem could exist.

And that’s why the examples are so relevant

of the things you’ve outlined in your life.

I hope those things, the books people write,

the experiences people build, the conversations you have,

your relationship with your AI systems,

I hope those all are feeding on the insights

built upon this ecosystem we’ve created to better your life.

And so that’s the thinking behind it.

Again, with the Drake equation

being the underlying driver of value.

And the people at Kernel have joined

not because we have certainty of success,

but because we find it to be the most exhilarating

opportunity we could ever pursue in this time to be alive.

You founded the payment system Braintree in 2007

that acquired Venmo in 2012,

in that same year was acquired by PayPal, which is now eBay.

Can you tell me the story of the vision

and the challenge of building an online payment system

and just building a large successful business in general?

I discovered payments by accident.

When I was 21, I just returned from Ecuador

living among extreme poverty for two years.

And I came back to the US and I was shocked by the opulence

of the United States of America.

Yeah, of the United States.

And I just thought this is, I couldn’t believe it.

And I decided I wanted to try to spend my life helping others.

Like that was the, that was a life objective

that I thought was worthwhile to pursue

versus making money and whatever the case may be

for its own right.

And so I decided in that moment that I was going to

try to make enough money by the age of 30

to never have to work again.

And then with some abundance of money,

I could then choose to do things that might be beneficial

to others, but may not meet the criteria

of being a standalone business.

And so in that process, I started a few companies,

had some small successes, had some failures.

In one of the endeavors, I was up to my eyeballs in debt.

Things were not going well.

And I needed a part time job to pay my bills.

And so I, one day I saw in the paper in Utah

where I was living the 50 richest people in Utah.

And I emailed each one of their assistants and said,

you know, I’m young, I’m resourceful, I’ll do anything.

I’ll just want to, I’m entrepreneurial.

I tried to get a job that would be flexible

and no one responded.

And then I interviewed at a few dozen places.

Nobody would even give me the time of day.

Like it wouldn’t want to take me seriously.

And so finally I, it was on monster.com

that I saw this job posting for credit card sales

door to door.


I did not know the story, this is great.

I love the head drop, that’s exactly right.

So it was.

The low points to which we go in life.

So I responded and you know, the person made an attempt

at suggesting that they had some kind of standards

that they would consider hiring.

But it’s kind of like, if you could fog a mirror,

like come and do this because it’s 100% commission.

And so I started walking up and down the street

in my community selling credit card processing.

And so what you learn immediately in doing that is

if you walk into a business, first of all,

the business owner is typically there.

And you walk in the door and they can tell

by how you’re dressed or how you walk,

whatever their pattern recognition is.

And they just hate you immediately.

It’s like, stop wasting my time.

I really am trying to get stuff done.

I don’t want us to a sales pitch.

And so you have to overcome the initial get out.

And then once you engage, when you say the word

credit card processing, the person’s like,

I already hate you because I have been taken advantage

of dozens of times because you all are weasels.

And so I had to figure out an algorithm

to get past all those different conditions.

Cause I was still working on my other startup

for the majority of my time.

So I was doing this part time.

And so I figured out that the industry really was built

on people, on deceit, basically people promising things

that were not reality.

And so I don’t know if you’ve heard of it,

but we’re not reality and so I’d walk into a business.

I’d say, look, I would give you a hundred dollars.

I’d put a hundred dollar bill and say,

I’ll give you a hundred dollars

for three minutes of your time.

If you don’t say yes to what I’m saying,

I’ll give you a hundred dollars.

And then he usually crack a smile and say, okay,

like what do you got for me son?

And so I’d sit down, I just opened my book and I’d say,

here’s the credit card industry.

Here’s how it works.

Here are the players.

Here’s what they do.

Here’s how they deceive you.

Here’s what I am.

I’m no different than anyone else.

I it’s like, you’re gonna process your credit card.

You’re gonna get the money in the account.

You’re just gonna get a clean statement, you’re gonna have

someone who answers the call when someone asks and you know,

just like the basic, like you’re okay.

And people started saying yes.

And then of course I went to the next business and be like,

you know, Joe and Susie and whoever said yes too.

And so I built a social proof structure

and I became the number one salesperson

out of 400 people nationwide doing this.

And I worked, you know, half time

still doing this other startup and.

That’s a brilliant strategy, by the way.

It’s very well, very well strategized and executed.

I did it for nine months.

And at the time my customer base was making,

was generating around, I think it was six,

if I remember correctly, $62,504 a month

were the overall revenues.

I thought, wow, that’s amazing.

If I built that as my own company,

I would just make $62,000 a month of income passively

with these merchants processing credit cards.

So I thought, hmm.

And so that’s when I thought I’m gonna create a company.

And so then I started Braintree.

And the idea was the online world was broken

because PayPal had been acquired by eBay

around, I think, 1999 or 2000.

And eBay had not innovated much with PayPal.

So it basically sat still for seven years

as the software world moved along.

And then authorize.net was also a company

that was relatively stagnant.

So you basically had software engineers

who wanted modern payment tools,

but there were none available for them.

And so they just dealt with software they didn’t like.

And so with Braintree,

I thought the entry point is to build software

that engineers will love.

And if we can find the entry point via software

and make it easy and beautiful

and just a magical experience

and then provide customer service on top of that,

that would be easy, that would be great.

What I was really going after though, it was PayPal.

They were the only company in payments making money.

Because they had the relationship with eBay early on,

people created a PayPal account,

they’d fund their account with their checking account

versus their credit cards.

And then when they’d use PayPal to pay a merchant,

PayPal had a cost of payment of zero

versus if you have coming from a credit card,

you have to pay the bank the fees.

So PayPal’s margins were 3% on a transaction

versus a typical payments company,

which may be a nickel or a penny or a dime

or something like that.

And so I knew PayPal really was the model to replicate,

but a bunch of companies had tried to do that.

They tried to come in and build a two sided marketplace.

So get consumers to fund the checking account

and the merchants to accept it,

but they’d all failed because building

a two sided marketplace is very hard at the same time.

So my plan was I’m going to build a company

and get the best merchants in the whole world

to use our service.

Then in year five, I’m going to have,

I’m going to acquire a consumer payments company

and I’m going to bring the two together.

And to focus on the merchant side and then get

the payments company that does the customer,

the whatever, the other side of it.

This is the plan I presented when I was

at University of Chicago.

And weirdly it happened exactly like that.

So four years in our customer base included Uber,

Airbnb, GitHub, 37 Signals, not Basecamp.

We had a fantastic collection of companies

that represented the fastest growing,

some of the fastest growing tech companies in the world.

And then we met up with Venmo and they had done

a remarkable job in building product.

It does up then something very counterintuitive,

which is make public your private financial transactions

which people previously thought were something

that should be hidden from others.

And we acquired Venmo and at that point we now had,

we replicated the model because now people could fund

their Venmo account with their checking account,

keep money in the account.

And then you could just plug Venmo as a form of payment.

And so I think PayPal saw that,

that we were getting the best merchants in the world.

We had people using Venmo.

They were both the up and coming millennials at the time

who had so much influence online.

And so they came in and offered us an attractive number.

And my goal was not to build

the biggest payments company in the world.

It wasn’t to try to climb the Forbes billionaire list.

It was, the objective was I want to earn enough money

so that I can basically dedicate my attention

to doing something that could potentially be useful

on a society wide scale.

And more importantly, that could be considered to be valuable

from the vantage point of 2050, 2100 and 2500.

So thinking about it on a few hundred year timescale.

And there was a certain amount of money I needed to do that.

So I didn’t require the permission of anybody to do that.

And so that what PayPal offered was sufficient for me

to get that amount of money to basically have a go.

And that’s when I set off to survey everything

I could identify an existence to say

of anything in the entire world I could do.

What one thing could I do

that would actually have the highest value potential

for the species?

And so it took me a little while to arrive at Brainerd Faces,


Payments in themselves are revolutionary technologies

that can change the world.

Like let’s not forget that too easily.

I mean, obviously you know this,

but there’s quite a few lovely folks

who are now fascinated with the space of cryptocurrency.

And payments are very much connected to this,

but in general, just money.

And many of the folks I’ve spoken with,

they also kind of connect that

to not just purely financial discussions,

but philosophical and political discussions.

And they see Bitcoin as a way, almost as activism,

almost as a way to resist the corruption

of centralized centers of power.

And sort of basically in the 21st century,

decentralizing control.

Whether that’s Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies,

they see that’s one possible way to give power

to those that live in regimes that are corrupt

or are not respectful of human rights

and all those kinds of things.

What’s your sense, just all your expertise with payments

and seeing how that changed the world,

what’s your sense about the lay of the land

for the future of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies

in the positive impact it may have on the world?

To be clear, my communication wasn’t meant

to minimize payments or to denigrate it in any way.

It was an attempt at communication

that when I was surveying the world,

it was an algorithm of what could I individually do?

So there are things that exist

that have a lot of potential that can be done.

And then there’s a filtering of how many people

are qualified to do this given thing.

And then there’s a further characterization

that can be done of, okay, given the number

of qualified people, will somebody be a unique out performer

of that group to make something truly impossible

to be something done that otherwise couldn’t get done?

So there’s a process of assessing

where can you add unique value in the world?

And some of that has to do with you being very formal

and calculative here, but some of that is just like,

what do you sense, like part of that equation

is how much passion you sense within yourself

to be able to drive that through,

to discover the impossibilities and make them possible.

That’s right, and so we were at Braintree,

I think we were the first company to integrate Coinbase

into our, I think we were the first payments company

to formally incorporate crypto, if I’m not mistaken.

For people who are not familiar,

Coinbase is a place where you can trade cryptocurrencies.

Yeah, which was one of the only places you could.

So we were early in doing that.

And of course, this was in the year 2013.

So an attorney to go in cryptocurrency land.

I concur with the statement you made

of the potential of the principles

underlying cryptocurrencies.

And that many of the things that they’re building

in the name of money and of moving value

is equally applicable to the brain

and equally applicable to how the brain interacts

with the rest of the world

and how we would imagine doing goal alignment with people.

So to me, it’s a continuous spectrum of possibility.

And your question is isolated on the money.

And I think it just is basically a scaffolding layer

for all of society.

So you don’t see this money as particularly distinct

from other? I don’t.

I think we at Kernel, we will benefit greatly

from the progress being made in cryptocurrency

because it will be a similar technology stack

we will want to use for many things we want to accomplish.

And so I’m bullish on what’s going on

and think it could greatly enhance brain interfaces

and the value of the brain interface ecosystem.

I mean, is there something you could say about,

first of all, bullish on cryptocurrency versus fiat money?

So do you have a sense that in 21st century

cryptocurrency will be embraced by governments

and changed the face of governments,

the structure of governments?

It’s the same way I think about my diet,

where previously it was conscious Brian,

looking at foods in certain biochemical states.

Am I hungry? Am I irritated? Am I depressed?

And then I choose based upon those momentary windows.

Do I eat at night when I’m fatigued

and I have low willpower?

Am I going to pig out on something?

And the current monetary system is based

upon human conscious decision making.

And politics and power and this whole mess of things.

And what I like about the building blocks

of cryptocurrencies, it’s methodical, it’s structured,

it is accountable, it’s transparent.

And so it introduces this scaffolding,

which I think, again, is the right starting point

for how we think about building

next generation institutions for society.

And that’s why I think it’s much broader than money.

So I guess what you’re saying is Bitcoin is the demotion

of the conscious mind as well.

In the same way you were talking about diet,

it’s like giving less priority to the ups and downs

of any one particular human mind, in this case your own,

and giving more power to the sort of data driven.

Yes, yeah, I think that is accurate,

that cryptocurrency is a version of what I would call

my autonomous self that I’m trying to build.

It is an introduction of an autonomous system

of value exchange and the process of value creation

in the society, yes, I see their similarities.

So I guess what you’re saying is Bitcoin

will somehow help me not pig out at night,

or the equivalent of, speaking of diet,

if we could just linger on that topic a little bit,

we already talked about your blog post of I fired myself,

I fired Brian, the evening Brian,

who’s too willing to, not making good decisions

for the long term well being and happiness

of the entirety of the organism.

Basically you were like pigging out at night.

But it’s interesting, because I do the same,

in fact I often eat one meal a day,

and like I have been this week actually,

especially when I travel, and it’s funny

that it never occurred to me to just basically look

at the fact that I’m able to be much smarter

about my eating decisions in the morning

and the afternoon than I am at night.

So if I eat one meal a day, why not eat

that one meal a day in the morning?

Like I’m not, it never occurred to me,

this revolutionary act, until you’ve outlined that.

So maybe, can you give some details,

and this is just you, this is one person,

Brian, arrives at a particular thing that they do,

but it’s fascinating to kind of look

at this one particular case study,

so what works for you, diet wise?

What’s your actual diet, what do you eat,

how often do you eat?

My current protocol is basically the result

of thousands of experiments and decision making.

So I do this every 90 days, I do the tests,

I do the cycle throughs, then I measure again,

and then I’m measuring all the time.

And so what I, of course I’m optimizing

for my biomarkers, I want perfect cholesterol

and I want perfect blood glucose levels

and perfect DNA methylation processes.

I also want perfect sleep.

And so for example, recently, the past two weeks,

my resting heart rate has been at 42 when I sleep.

And when my resting heart rate’s at 42,

my HRV is at its highest.

And I wake up in the morning feeling more energized

than any other configuration.

And so I know from all these processes

that eating at roughly 8.30 in the morning,

right after I work out on an empty stomach,

creates enough distance between that completed eating

and bedtime where I have almost no digestion processes

going on in my body,

therefore my resting heart rate goes very low.

And when my resting heart rate’s very low,

I sleep with high quality.

And so basically I’ve been trying to optimize

the entirety of what I eat to my sleep quality.

And my sleep quality then of course feeds into my willpower

so it creates this virtuous cycle.

And so at 8.30 what I do is I eat what I call super veggie,

which is, it’s a pudding of 250 grams of broccoli,

150 grams of cauliflower,

and a whole bunch of other vegetables

that I eat what I call nutty pudding, which is.

You make the pudding yourself?

Like, what do you call it?

Like a veggie mix, whatever thing, like a blender?

Yeah, you can be made in a high speed blender.

But basically I eat the same thing every day,

veggie bowl as in the form of pudding,

and then a bowl in the form of nuts.

And then I have.


Vegan, yes.

Vegan, so that’s fat and that’s like,

that’s fat and carbs and that’s the protein and so on.

Then I have a third dish.

Does it taste good?

I love it.

I love it so much I dream about it.

Yeah, that’s awesome.

This is a.

And then I have a third dish which is,

it changes every day.

Today it was kale and spinach and sweet potato.

And then I take about 20 supplements


hopefully make, constitute a perfect nutritional profile.

So what I’m trying to do is create the perfect diet

for my body every single day.

Where sleep is part of the optimization.

That’s right.

You’re like, one of the things you’re really tracking.

I mean, can you, well, I have a million question,

but 20 supplements, like what kind are like,

would you say are essential?

Cause I only take, I only take athletic greens.com slash.

That’s like the multivitamin essentially.

That’s like the lazy man, you know, like,

like if you don’t actually want to think about shit,

that’s what you take and then fish oil and that’s it.

That’s all I take.

Yeah, you know, Alfred North Whitehead said,

civilization advances as it extends the number

of important operations it can do

without thinking about them.


So my objective on this is I want an algorithm

for perfect health that I never have to think about.

And then I want that system to be scalable to anybody

so that they don’t have to think about it.

And right now it’s expensive for me to do it.

It’s time consuming for me to do it.

And I have infrastructure to do it,

but the future of being human is not going

to the grocery store and deciding what to eat.

It’s also not reading scientific papers,

trying to decide this thing or that thing.

It’s all N of one.

So it’s devices on the outside and inside your body,

assessing real time what your body needs

and then creating closed loop systems for that to happen.

Yeah, so right now you’re doing the data collection

and you’re being the scientist,

it’d be much better if you just did the data collect

or it was being essentially done for you

and you can outsource that to another scientist

that’s doing the N of one study of you.

That’s right, because every time I spend time thinking

about this or executing, spending time on it,

I’m spending less time thinking about building kernel

or the future of being human.

And so it’s, we just all have the budget

of our capacity on an everyday basis

and we will scaffold our way up out of this.

And so, yeah, hopefully what I’m doing is really,

it serves as a model that others can also build on.

That’s why I wrote about it,

is hopefully people can then take it and improve upon it.

I hold nothing sacred.

I change my diet almost every day

based upon some new test results or science

or something like that, but.

Can you maybe elaborate on the sleep thing?

Why is sleep so important?

And why, presumably, like what does good sleep mean to you?

I think sleep is a contender for being the most powerful

health intervention in existence.

It’s a contender.

I mean, it’s magical what it does if you’re well rested

and what your body can do.

And I mean, for example, I know when I eat close

to my bedtime and I’ve done a systematic study for years

looking at like 15 minute increments on time of day

on where I eat my last meal,

my willpower is directly correlated

to the amount of deep sleep I get.

So my ability to not binge eat at night

when rascal Brian’s out and about

is based upon how much deep sleep I got the night before.

Yeah, there’s a lot to that, yeah.

And so I’ve seen it manifest itself.

And so I think the way I summarize this is

in society we’ve had this myth of,

we tell stories, for example, of entrepreneurship

where this person was so amazing,

they stayed at the office for three days

and slept under their desk.

And we say, wow, that’s amazing, that’s amazing.

And now I think we’re headed towards a state

where we’d say that’s primitive

and really not a good idea on every level.

And so the new mythology is going to be the exact opposite.

Yeah, by the way, just to sort of maybe push back

a little bit on that idea.

Did you sleep under your desk collects?

Well, yeah, a lot.

I’m a big believer in that actually.

I’m a big believer in chaos

and giving into your passion

and sometimes doing things that are out of the ordinary

that are not trying to optimize health

for certain periods of time in lieu of your passions

is a signal to yourself that you’re throwing everything away.

So I think what you’re referring to

is how to have good performance for prolonged periods

of time.

I think there’s moments in life

where you need to throw all of that away,

all the plans away, all the structure away.

So I’m not sure I have an eloquent way

describing exactly what I’m talking about,

but it all depends on people, people are different,

but there’s a danger of over optimization

to where you don’t just give into the madness

of the way your brain flows.

I mean, to push back on my pushback is like,

it’s nice to have like where the foundations

of your brain are not messed with.

So you have a fixed foundation where the diet is fixed,

where the sleep is fixed and that all of that is optimal

and the chaos happens in the space of ideas

as opposed to the space of biology.

But I’m not sure if there’s a,

that requires real discipline and forming habits.

There’s some aspect to which some of the best days

and weeks of my life have been, yeah,

sleeping under a desk kind of thing.

And I don’t, I’m not too willing to let go

of things that empirically worked

for things that work in theory.

And so I’m, again, I’m absolutely with you on sleep.

Also, I’m with you on sleep conceptually,

but I’m also very humbled to understand

that for different people,

good sleep means different things.

I’m very hesitant to trust science on sleep.

I think you should also be a scholar of your own body.

Again, the experiment of NF1.

I’m not so sure that a full night’s sleep is great for me.

There is something about that power nap

that I just have not fully studied yet,

but that nap is something special.

That I’m not sure I found the optimal thing.

So like there’s a lot to be explored

to what is exactly optimal amount of sleep,

optimal kind of sleep combined with diet

and all those kinds of things.

I mean, that all maps the sort of data,

at least the truth, exactly what you’re referring to.

Here’s a data point for your consideration.


The progress in biology over the past, say decade,

has been stunning.


And it now appears as if we will be able to replace

our organs, zero X for a transplantation.

And so we probably have a path to replace

and regenerate every organ of your body,

except for your brain.

You can lose your hand and your arm and a leg.

You can have an artificial heart.

You can’t operate without your brain.

And so when you make that trade off decision

of whether you’re going to sleep under the desk or not

and go all out for a four day marathon, right?

There’s a cost benefit trade off of what’s going on,

what’s happening to your brain in that situation.

We don’t know the consequences

of modern day life on our brain.

We don’t, it’s the most valuable organ in our existence.

And we don’t know what’s going on if we,

in how we’re treating it today with stress

and with sleep and with dietary.

And to me, then if you say that you’re trying to,

you’re trying to optimize life

for whatever things you’re trying to do.

The game is soon with the progress in anti aging and biology,

the game is very soon going to become different

than what it is right now with organ rejuvenation,

organ replacement.

And I would conjecture that we will value

the health status of our brain above all things.

Yeah, no, absolutely.

Everything you’re saying is true, but we die.

We die pretty quickly, life is short.

And I’m one of those people that I would rather die in battle

than stay safe at home.

It’s like, yeah, you look at kind of,

there’s a lot of things that you can reasonably say,

these are, this is the smart thing to do

that can prevent you, that becomes conservative,

that can prevent you from fully embracing life.

I think ultimately you can be very intelligent

and data driven and also embrace life.

But I err on the side of embracing life.

It’s very, it takes a very skillful person

to not sort of that hovering parent that says,

you know what, there’s a 3% chance that if you go out,

if you go out by yourself and play, you’re going to die,

get run over by a car, come to a slow or a sudden end.

And I am more a supporter of just go out there.

If you die, you die.

And that’s a, it’s a balance you have to strike.

I think there’s a balance to strike

in the longterm optimization and short term freedom.

For me, for a programmer, for a programming mind,

I tend to over optimize and I’m very cautious

and afraid of that, to not over optimize

and thereby be overly cautious, suboptimally cautious

about everything I do.

And that’s the ultimate thing I’m trying to optimize for.

It’s funny you said like sleep and all those kinds of things.

I tend to think, this is, you’re being more precise

than I am, but I think I tend to want to minimize stress,

which everything comes into that from your sleep

and all those kinds of things.

But I worry that whenever I’m trying to be too strict

with myself, then the stress goes up

when I don’t follow the strictness.

And so you have to kind of, it’s a weird,

it’s a, there’s so many variables in an objective function

as it’s hard to get right.

And sort of not giving a damn about sleep

and not giving a damn about diet is a good thing

to inject in there every once in a while

for somebody who’s trying to optimize everything.

But that’s me just trying to, it’s exactly like you said,

you’re just a scientist, I’m a scientist of myself,

you’re a scientist of yourself.

It’d be nice if somebody else was doing it

and had much better data, because I don’t trust

my conscious mind and I pigged out last night

at some brisket in LA that I regret deeply.

It’s just so, uh.

There’s no point to anything I just said.


What is the nature of your regret on the brisket?

Is it, do you wish you hadn’t eaten it entirely?

Is it that you wish you hadn’t eaten as much as you did?

Is it that?

I think, well, the most regret, I mean,

if we want to be specific, I drank way too much like that.

Like diet soda.

My biggest regret is like having drank so much diet soda.

That’s the thing that really was the problem.

I had trouble sleeping because of that.

Because I was like programming and then I was editing.

And so I’d stay up late at night

and then I had to get up to go pee a few times

and it was just a mess.

A mess of a night.

It was, well, it’s not really a mess,

but like it’s so many, it’s like the little things.

I know if I just eat, I drink a little bit of water

and that’s it, and there’s a certain,

all of us have perfect days that we know diet wise

and so on that’s good to follow, you feel good.

I know what it takes for me to do that.

I didn’t fully do that and thereby,

because there’s an avalanche effect

where the other sources of stress,

all the other to do items I have piled on,

my failure to execute on some basic things

that I know make me feel good and all of that combines

to create a mess of a day.

But some of that chaos, you have to be okay with it,

but some of it I wish was a little bit more optimal.

And your ideas about eating in the morning

are quite interesting as an experiment to try.

Can you elaborate, are you eating once a day?


In the morning and that’s it.

Can you maybe speak to how that,

you spoke, it’s funny, you spoke about the metrics of sleep,

but you’re also, you run a business,

you’re incredibly intelligent,

mostly your happiness and success

relies on you thinking clearly.

So how does that affect your mind and your body

in terms of performance?

So not just sleep, but actual mental performance.

As you were explaining your objective function of,

for example, in the criteria you were including,

you like certain neurochemical states,

like you like feeling like you’re living life,

that life has enjoyment,

that sometimes you want to disregard certain rules

to have a moment of passion, of focus.

There’s this architecture of the way Lex is,

which makes you happy as a story you tell,

as something you kind of experience,

maybe the experience is a bit more complicated,

but it’s in this idea you have, this is a version of you.

And the reason why I maintain the schedule I do

is I’ve chosen a game to say,

I would like to live a life

where I care more about what intelligent,

what people who live in the year 2500

think of me than I do today.

That’s the game I’m trying to play.

And so therefore the only thing I really care about

on this optimization is trying to see past myself,

past my limitations, using zeroes principle thinking,

pull myself out of this contextual mesh we’re in right now

and say, what will matter 100 years from now

and 200 years from now?

What are the big things really going on

that are defining reality?

And I find that if I were to hang out with Diet Soda Lex

and Diet Soda Brian were to play along with that

and my deep sleep were to get crushed as a result,

my mind would not be on what matters

in 100 years or 200 years or 300 years.

I would be irritable.

I would be, I’d be in a different state.

And so it’s just gameplay selection.

It’s what you and I have chosen to think about.

It’s what we’ve chosen to work on.

And this is why I’m saying that no generation of humans

have ever been afforded the opportunity

to look at their lifespan and contemplate

that they will have the possibility of experiencing

an evolved form of consciousness that is undeniable.

They would fall in a zero category of potential.

That to me is the most exciting thing in existence.

And I would not trade any momentary neurochemical state

right now in exchange for that.

I would, I’d be willing to deprive myself

of all momentary joy in pursuit of that goal

because that’s what makes me happy.

That’s brilliant.

But I’m a bit, I just looked it up.

I’m with, I just looked up Braveheart’s speech

and William Wallace, but I don’t know if you’ve seen it.

Fight and you may die, run and you’ll live at least a while.

And dying in your beds many years from now,

would you be willing to trade all the days

from this day to that for one chance,

just one chance, picture Mel Gibson saying this,

to come back here and tell our enemies

that they may take our lives with growing excitement,

but they’ll never take our freedom.

I get excited every time I see that in the movie,

but that’s kind of how I approach life and eating.

Do you think they were tracking their sleep?

They were not tracking their sleep

and they ate way too much brisket

and they were fat, unhealthy, died early,

and were primitive.

But there’s something in my ape brain

that’s attracted to that, even though most of my life

is fully aligned with the way you see yours.

Part of it is for comedy, of course,

but part of it is I’m almost afraid of overoptimization.

Really what you’re saying though,

if we’re looking at this,

let’s say from a first principles perspective,

when you read those words,

they conjure up certain life experiences,

but you’re basically saying,

I experienced a certain neurotransmitter state

when these things are in action.

That’s all you’re saying.

So whether it’s that or something else,

you’re just saying you have a selection

for how your state for your body.

And so if you as an engineer of consciousness,

that should just be engineerable.

And that’s just triggering certain chemical reactions.

And so it doesn’t mean they have to be mutually exclusive.

You can have that and experience that

and also not sacrifice longterm health.

And I think that’s the potential of where we’re going

is we don’t have to assume they are trade offs

that must be had.


And so I guess for my particular brain,

it’s useful to have the outlier experiences

that also come along with the illusion of free will

where I chose those experiences

that make me feel like it’s freedom.

Listen, going to Texas made me realize I spent,

so I still am, but I lived at Cambridge at MIT

and I never felt like home there.

I felt like home in the space of ideas with the colleagues,

like when I was actually discussing ideas,

but there is something about the constraints,

how cautious people are,

how much they valued also kind of a material success,

career success.

When I showed up to Texas, it felt like I belong.

That was very interesting, but that’s my neurochemistry,

whatever the hell that is, whatever,

maybe probably is rooted to the fact

that I grew up in the Soviet Union

and it was such a constrained system

that you’d really deeply value freedom

and you always want to escape the man

and the control of centralized systems.

I don’t know what it is, but at the same time,

I love strictness.

I love the dogmatic authoritarianism of diet,

of like the same habit, exactly the habit you have.

I think that’s actually when bodies perform optimally,

my body performs optimally.

So balancing those two, I think if I have the data,

every once in a while, party with some wild people,

but most of the time eat once a day,

perhaps in the morning, I’m gonna try that.

That might be very interesting,

but I’d rather not try it.

I’d rather have the data that tells me to do it.

But in general, you’re able to, eating once a day,

think deeply about stuff like this.

Concern that people have is like does your energy wane,

all those kinds of things.

Do you find that it’s, especially because it’s unique,

it’s vegan as well.

So you find that you’re able to have a clear mind,

a focus, and just physically and mentally throughout?

Yeah, and I find like my personal experience

in thinking about hard things is,

like oftentimes I feel like I’m looking through a telescope

and like I’m aligning two or three telescopes.

And you kind of have to close one eye

and move it back and forth a little bit

and just find just the right alignment.

Then you find just a sneak peek

at the thing you’re trying to find, but it’s fleeting.

If you move just one little bit, it’s gone.

And oftentimes what I feel like are the ideas

I value the most are like that.

They’re so fragile and fleeting and slippery and elusive.

And it requires a sensitivity to thinking

and a sensitivity to maneuver through these things.

If I concede to a world where I’m on my phone texting,

I’m also on social media.

I’m also doing 15 things at the same time

because I’m running a company

and I’m also feeling terrible from the last night.

It all just comes crashing down.

And the quality of my thoughts goes to a zero.

I’m a functional person to respond to basic level things,

but I don’t feel like I am doing anything interesting.

I think that’s a good word, sensitivity,

because that’s the word that’s used the most.

That’s what thinking deeply feels like

is you’re sensitive to the fragile thoughts.

And you’re right.

All those other distractions kind of dull

your ability to be sensitive to the fragile thoughts.

It’s a really good word.

Out of all the things you’ve done,

you’ve also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

Is this true?

It’s true.

Why and how, and what do you take from that experience?

I guess the backstory is relevant

because in that moment, it was the darkest time in my life.

I was ending a 13 year marriage.

I was leaving my religion.

I sold Braintree and I was battling depression

where I was just at the end.

And I got invited to go to Tanzania

as part of a group that was raising money

to build clean water wells.

And I had made some money from Braintree,

and so I was able to donate $25,000.

And it was the first time I had ever had money to donate

outside of paying tithing in my religion.

It was such a phenomenal experience

to contribute something meaningful to someone else

in that form.

And as part of this process,

we were gonna climb the mountain.

And so we went there and we saw the clean water wells

we were building.

We spoke to the people there and it was very energizing.

And then we climbed Kilimanjaro

and I came down with a stomach flu on day three.

And I also had altitude sickness,

but I became so sick that on day four,

we are somebody on day five,

I came into the camp, base camp at 15,000 feet,

just going to the bathroom on myself

and falling all over.

I was just a disaster, I was so sick.

So stomach flu and altitude sickness.

Yeah, and I just was destroyed from the situation.

Plus, it was psychologically one of the lowest points.

Yeah, and I think that was probably a big contributor.

I was just smoked as a human, just absolutely done.

And I had three young children.

And so I was trying to reconcile,

this is not a, whether I live or not

is not my decision by itself.

I’m now intertwined with these three little people

and I have an obligation whether I like it or not,

I need to be there.

And so it did, it felt like I was just stuck

in a straight jacket.

And I had to decide whether I was going to summit

the next day with the team.

And it was a difficult decision

because once you start hiking,

there’s no way to get off the mountain.

And a midnight came and our guide came in

and he said, where are you at?

And I said, I think I’m okay, I think I can try.

And so we went.

And so from midnight to, I made it to the summit at 5 a.m.

It was one of the most transformational moments

of my existence.

And the mountain became my problem.

It became everything that I was struggling with.

And when I started hiking, it was,

the pain got so ferocious that it was kind of like this.

It became so ferocious that I turned my music to Eminem

and it was, Eminem was the,

he was the only person in existence that spoke to my soul.

And it was something about his anger

and his vibrancy and his multi eventually,

he’s the only person who I could turn on

and I could just say, I feel some relief.

I turned on Eminem and I made it to the summit

after five hours, but just 100 yards from the top.

I was with my guide Ike and I started getting very dizzy

and I felt like I was gonna fall backwards

off this cliff area we were on.

I was like, this is dangerous.

And he said, look, Brian, I know where you’re at.

I know where you’re at.

And I can tell you, you’ve got it in you.

So I want you to look up, take a step, take a breath

and look up, take a breath and take a step.

And I did and I made it.

And so I got there and I just sat down with him at the top.

I just cried like a baby.

Broke down.

Yeah, I just lost it.

And so he’d let me do my thing.

And then we pulled out the pulse oximeter

and he measured my blood oxygen levels

and it was like 50 something percent

and it was danger zone.

So he looked at it and I think he was like really alarmed

that I was in this situation.

And so he said, we can’t get a helicopter here

and we can’t get you emergency evacuated.

You’ve gotta go down.

You’ve gotta hike down to 15,000 feet to get base camp.

And so we went out on the mountain.

I got back down to base camp.

And again, that was pretty difficult.

And then they put me on a stretcher,

this metal stretcher with this one wheel

and a team of six people wheeled me down the mountain.

And it was pretty torturous.

I’m very appreciative they did.

Also the trail was very bumpy.

So they’d go over the big rocks.

And so my head would just slam

against this metal thing for hours.

And so I just felt awful.

Plus I’d get my head slammed every couple of seconds.

So the whole experience was really a life changing moment.

And that was the demarcation of me

basically building a new life.

Basically I said, I’m going to reconstruct Brian,

my understanding of reality, my existential realities,

what I want to go after.

And I try, I mean, as much as that’s possible as a human,

but that’s when I set out to rebuild everything.

Was it the struggle of that?

I mean, there’s also just like the romantic poetic,

it’s a fricking mountain.

There’s a man in pain, psychological and physical

struggling up a mountain.

But it’s just struggle, just in the face of,

just pushing through in the face of hardship or nature too.

Something much bigger than you.

Is that, was that the thing that just clicked?

For me, it felt like I was just locked in with reality

and it was a death match.

It was in that moment, one of us is going to die.

So you were pondering death, like not surviving.


And it was, and that was the moment.

And it was, the summit to me was,

I’m going to come out on top and I can do this.

And giving in was, it’s like, I’m just done.

And so it did, I locked in and that’s why,

yeah, mountains are magical to me.

I didn’t expect that.

I didn’t design that.

I didn’t know that was going to be the case.

I not, it would not have been something

I would have anticipated.

But you were not the same man afterwards.


Is there advice you can give to young people today

that look at your story,

that’s successful in many dimensions,

advice you can give to them about how to be successful

in their career, successful in life,

whatever path they choose?

Yes, I would say, listen to advice

and see it for what it is, a mirror of that person,

and then map and know that your future

is going to be in a zero principle land.

And so what you’re hearing today is a representation

of what may have been the right principles

to build upon previously,

but they’re likely depreciating very fast.

And so I am a strong proponent

that people ask for advice, but they don’t take advice.

So how do you take advice properly?

It’s in the careful examination of the advice.

It’s actually the person makes a statement

about a given thing somebody should follow.

The value is not doing that.

The value is understanding the assumption stack they built,

the assumption and knowledge stack they built

around that body of knowledge.

That’s the value.

It’s not doing what they say.

Considering the advice, but digging deeper

to understand the assumption stack,

like the full person,

I mean, this is deep empathy, essentially,

to understand the journey of the person

that arrived at the advice.

And the advice is just the tip of the iceberg

that ultimately is not the thing that gives you.

It could be the right thing to do.

It could be the complete wrong thing to do

depending on the assumption stack.

So you need to investigate the whole thing.

Is there some, are there been people in your startup

and your business journey that have served that role

of advice giver that’s been helpful?

Or do you feel like your journey felt like a lonely path?

Or was it one that was, of course,

we’re all there born and die alone.

But do you fundamentally remember the experiences,

one where you leaned on people

at a particular moment in time that changed everything?

Yeah, the most significant moments of my memory,

for example, like on Kilimanjaro,

when Ike, some person I’d never met in Tanzania,

was able to, in that moment, apparently see my soul

when I was in this death match with reality.

And he gave me the instructions, look up, step.

And so there’s magical people in my life

that have done things like that.

And I suspect they probably don’t know.

I probably should be better at identifying those things.

And, but yeah, hopefully the,

I suppose like the wisdom I would aspire to

is to have the awareness and the empathy

to be that for other people.

And not a retail advertiser of advice,

of tricks for life, but deeply meaningful

and empathetic with a one on one context

with people that it really can make a difference.

Yeah, I actually kind of experience,

I think about that sometimes.

You have like an 18 year old kid come up to you.

And it’s not always obvious,

it’s not always easy to really listen to them.

Like not the facts, but like see who that person is.

I think people say that about being a parent

is you want to consider that,

you don’t want to be the authority figure

in the sense that you really want to consider

that there’s a special unique human being there

with a unique brain that may be brilliant

in ways that you are not understanding

that you’ll never be and really try to hear that.

So when giving advice, there’s something to that.

It’s a both sides should be deeply empathetic

about the assumption stack.

I love that terminology.

What do you think is the meaning of this whole thing of life?

Why the hell are we here, Brian Johnson?

We’ve been talking about brains and studying brains

and you had this very eloquent way of describing life

on Earth as an optimization problem

of the cost of intelligence going to zero.

At first through the evolutionary process

and then eventually through building,

through our technology,

building more and more intelligent systems.

You ever ask yourself why is doing that?

Yeah, I think the answer to this question,

again, the information value is more in the mirror

it provides of that person,

which is a representation of the technological,

social, political context of the time.

So if you ask this question a hundred years ago,

you would get a certain answer

that reflects that time period.

Same thing would be true of a thousand years ago.

It’s rare, it’s difficult for a person to pull themselves

out of their contextual awareness

and offer a truly original response.

And so knowing that I am contextually influenced

by the situation, that I am a mirror for our reality,

I would say that in this moment,

I think the real game going on

is that evolution built a system

of scaffolding intelligence that produced us.

We are now building intelligence systems

that are scaffolding higher dimensional intelligence,

that’s developing more robust systems of intelligence.

In doing in that process with the cost going to zero,

then the meaning of life becomes goal alignment,

which is the negotiation of our conscious

and unconscious existence.

And then I’d say the third thing is,

if we’re thinking that we wanna be explorers

is our technological progress is getting to a point

where we could aspirationally say,

we want to figure out what is really going on,

really going on, because does any of this really make sense?

Now we may be a hundred, 200, 500, a thousand years away

from being able to poke our way out of whatever is going on.

But it’s interesting that we could even state an aspiration

to say, we wanna poke at this question.

But I’d say in this moment of time,

the meaning of life is that we can build a future state

of existence that is more fantastic

than anything we could ever imagine.

The striving for something more amazing.

And that defies expectations that we would consider

bewildering and all the things that that’s,

and I guess the last thing,

if there’s multiple meanings of life,

it would be infinite games.

James Kars wrote the book,

Finite Games, Infinite Games.

The only game to play right now is to keep playing the game.

And so this goes back to the algorithm

of the Lex algorithm of diet soda and brisket

and pursuing the passion.

What I’m suggesting is there’s a moment here

where we can contemplate playing infinite games.

Therefore, it may make sense to err on the side

of making sure one is in a situation

to be playing infinite games if that opportunity arises.

So the landscape of possibility is changing very, very fast

and therefore our old algorithms

of how we might assess risk assessment

and what things we might pursue

and why those assumptions may fall away very quickly.

Well, I think I speak for a lot of people

when I say that the game you, Mr. Brian Johnson,

have been playing is quite incredible.

Thank you so much for talking to me.

Thanks, Lex.

Thanks for listening to this conversation

with Brian Johnson and thank you

to Four Sigmatic, NetSuite, Grammarly, and ExpressVPN.

Check them out in the description to support this podcast.

And now let me leave you with some words

from Diane Ackerman.

Our brain is a crowded chemistry lab,

bustling with nonstop neural conversations.

Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.

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