From brain prostheses to the 3D brain: Ed Boyden on the future of neuroscience

By John Murray

Recently I had a chance to chat with MIT neuroscience wunderkind Ed Boyden. Boyden, along with Bryan Johnson of OS Fund and Jane Metcalfe of NEO.LIFE, participated in the keynote fireside chat Neuroscience + synthetic biology: The neobiological revolution at SynBioBeta 2018 last month.

Anywhere Boyden goes, he is undoubtedly the smartest person in the room. The 39-year-old Texas native graduated from MIT at age 19 with three degrees—a bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering and computer science, plus a bachelor’s in physics—before moving to Stanford University where he earned a PhD in neuroscience.

Neuroscience is, of course, a hot topic in Silicon Valley. Several marquee names have launched projects aimed at creating brain-computer interfaces, most notably Bryan Johnson’s Kernel, Elon Musk’s Neuralink, and Mark Zuckerberg’s Building 8.

Though Boyden has advised a few startups, including Kernel, his abiding interest in neuroscience is not commercial. “I’m not a business person,” he tells me. In fact, his interest goes beyond scientific discovery. He wants to better understand the human condition and alleviate the suffering caused by neurological disorders.

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