A Helmet to Expand Your Brain

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Article

Imagine a helmet that will allow you to transfer your ideas directly from your mind to the mind of a friend.  Imagine conveying emotions to your mate more richly than language has ever allowed.

Imagine searching the web for what you need with only your thoughts and doing it at nearly instant speed.   Imagine having the songs that go through your head and the songs that you hear in the street identified whenever you want.  Or getting instant identification for the song birds you hear in the park, the stars you see from your back yard, and the faces and biographies of folks you walk past in the street.

There is now a $50,000 helmet that will do almost all of this.

And this helmet will do the work of five roomfuls of current brain-sensing machines—including functional magnetic resonance imagers, functional near-infrared spectroscopes, electroencephalographs, magnetoencephalographs, and positron emission tomographs.

Bloomberg reports that this helmet is designed to help researchers understand Alzheimer’s, “brain aging, mental disorders, concussions, strokes,” Parkinson’s disease, and “the mechanics behind previously metaphysical experiences such as meditation and psychedelic trips.”[i]

The new helmet is also designed to help find the most effective exercises to revive a  brain that’s been damaged or the most effective way to do your meditation.

The creator of the helmet, 44-year old former Venmo owner Bryan Johnson, thinks of it as the machine that will truly help you know yourself. And the machine that will let you use artificial intelligence to gain superpowers.

The company that’s developed this miracle device is Bryan Johnson’s baby, Kernel.  It’s located in a two-story lab in a residential area of Venice, California.  Kernel’s goal is the ultimate machine for the study of the brain.  And the ultimate machine with which you can understand your own brain and use your brain in whole new ways.

And there’s another goal.  The current customers are research labs like Harvard’s Medical School, the University of Texas, and California’s Institute for Advanced Consciousness Studies.  But by 2030 after research institutions, universities, early adopters, and the wealthy have purchased their helmets, Kernel is hoping to work down the price so its helmets can be as common as cell phones.

Actually, there are two Kernel helmets.  One uses laser pulses to measure changes in blood oxygenation. Its secret is miniaturized photon diffusion detectors.[ii]. And the other measures the brain’s electrical activity using miniaturized optically pumped magnetometers  Hopefully someday the two functions will be merged in a single helmet.

For brain researchers, psychologists, and specialists in mass behavior like me, the helmets will be the research tool of our dreams, allowing us to do studies with thousands of volunteers at the push of a button.

Bloomberg reports that “Christof Koch, chief scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, calls Kernel’s devices ‘revolutionary.’” MIT neuroscientist Edward Boyden says about Kernel’s founder, Bryan Johnson, “Everybody he’s recruited to Kernel is amazing.” David Boas, director of the Neurophotonics Center at Boston University says, “This unlocks a whole new universe of research.”

Bloomberg reports that the helmet can even be used to study “the root causes of American political polarization.”  Kernel’s founder, Bryan Johnson, is eager to try such a thing and would love it if the government would buy thousands of his helmets for the purpose.  Says Johnson, “Let’s do the largest brain study in history and try to unify ourselves and get back to a steady state.” In other words, the Kernel helmet could conceivably be used to get Americans back together again. Alas, if Johnson tried such a study, QAnon would call it a totalitarian plot.

[i] https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/can-a-110-million-helmet-unlock-the-secrets-of-the-mind/ar-AAL6BQF

[ii] https://www.kernel.com/hello-humanity