Friday, April 13, 2012

The World's First Billion Dollar Brain

How much might the highest bidder pay for Steve Jobs' intact brain in a jar? I could see a die-hard collector and history fan dropping 10 or 20 million $ for bragging rights. Maybe more.

But what if that buyer could count on extracting information from the brain? As science continues to better our understanding of functions like memory, intelligence and cognition, and improves brain-scanning and simulation, we're rapidly developing the ability to identify where and how information resides in brains. Researchers have already  distinguished between different recalled memories in brains. So how many more years will pass before mankind can read meaningful portions of the well-preserved brain of a deceased person? 5 years? 10? 20? 50? 100?  

The answer may well be 10-20 years, but even if it's 100 - that could seriously affect the price a person or an organization is willing to pay for a brain. The prospect of retro-active brain reading will surely push up the going rate for preserved brains.

So maybe that raises the top bid for Steve's brain to $50 million, especially considering the advances being made in fields like chemo-preservation, which is turning out to be a powerful alternative to freezing. For an in depth overview check out Ken Hayworth of the Brain Preservation Foundation discuss this at length - begins at 3 mins 30 seconds.

Keeping in mind accelerating developments in computer processing, scanning, information theory and brain sciences, how much might a government or group betting on the prospect of retro-active brain reading in the future be willing to pay for the brain of a key scientist, intelligence operative, general, politician, inventor or enemy? The going rate will of course be influenced by available budget and the certainty of the purchasers, but both of those will only rise as we move forward in time. There will most likely be more capital available. There will most likely be greater certainty that brains can be read. 

How much would a company be willing to pay for Steve Jobs' brain (which was not preserved, btw)? How much would the U.S. pay for the intact frozen brain of China's leading cyber strategist? How much would Obama's or Gates' chemo-preserved brain be worth to the Chinese govt? 

The only thing I'm really sure of is that the informational value and going $ rate for ALL brains will rise steadily over time as accelerating change, systems quantification and the emerging superfluid economy conspire to allow us to read brains better and make information more useful and transferable - just as the value of rain forests goes up as we figure out the previously discounted or externalized value of the ecosystem and species therein.

Perhaps we'll get to a billion dollar brain purchase by 2030 or 2040. Perhaps the average going rate for a brain will be $1 billion (inflation adjusted) by 2060. Perhaps some foresighted risk-takers are already stock-piling brains. Perhaps there are companies or nations that have already put "brain recovery" clauses in key asset's contracts. 

It may seem crazy to contemplate. But such an exercise is much less whacked than it would've seemed just 5 or 10 years ago. 

The main point: it's worth thinking about - maybe someone will retro-actively read your brain one day.