The New IQ: Interestingness Quotient

By Bryan Johnson | 19 June 2018

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

What are the most consequential areas of focus that maximally increase the probability that humanity will survive and thrive? This is the question that has been foremost in my mind for nearly two decades. It led me to start both OS Fund and Kernel, after selling Braintree. (The Shackleton Sniff Test was a useful frame in my exploration.) It has also emerged as one of the most common questions I get from people reaching out to me, encouragingly.

In these conversations, most feel unsettled about the state of the world, our future prospects, and want to take matters into their own hands to do something about it. We have fantastic fun exploring their thinking together. If you could do anything you can dream of, what would you do?

Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, and author of Principles (a great book, btw), announced his OceanX project this month, explaining “…ocean exploration is much more exciting and much more important than space exploration.” Of all the things in the world $17.7B can do, Ray chose oceans.

I’d love to speak with Ray and understand his thought processes and assumption stacks around how he determined oceans were deserving of his attention and resources. The oceans need TLC, unquestionably, and urgently, and I couldn’t be happier he’s doing it, but how did he determine oceans, from his near unlimited options, was the correct choice? Was it right for him? Is it right for the species? Was it the most convenient choice he had? Is it the first of many things he’ll be doing outside of Bridgewater? What other possibilities were in contention?

Up one level of analysis from Ray’s decision making process is another, and I think, more important question: Is the gameplay among the .001%-ers changing? Since its first publication in 1987, Forbes The World’s Billionaires has fueled a dominate-style of game play—who can accumulate the most money. Buffet evolved Carnegie’s take (“The man who dies rich dies disgraced”) a bit with The Giving Pledge. Bill Gates iterated further (Zuckerberg followed) with who can help the most people.

Is the next game play iteration among the .001% emerging? Is Dalio’s comment “…ocean exploration is much more exciting and much more important than space exploration,” evidence of that?

If so, the new game seems to be: “Who can do the most interesting things? Or, who has the highest Interestingness Quotient (IQ)?” I hope this is the case. We’d all benefit from such a competition.

Beyond a New IQ, I’d nudge the next gameplay iteration towards a holistic consideration of humanity’s long-term survivability. There are nearly 8 billion of us, and whether we like it or not, we are tightly interconnected. We need thinking, planning, and cooperation that transcends nation state, race, gender, religion, politics, and economics. (Oceans are a great entry point for that). We need people to put forth their own personal Plans for Humanity.

What would this new game be called? How would we keep score? What kinds of things would people do? What if we posed the question to AI, what “strategically unprecedented moves” would it offer up?”

Beyond this gameplay iteration, what games would we play if we were cognitively evolved past our current state? What if we were not driven by ego, respect, status and power? What if we transitioned to interconnectedness, empathy, and harmony as the primary motivators instead of our current default operating system of competition?

We humans love to play games. We’re wired for them. What games we choose to play will be highly consequential in determining our collective future, so let’s choose thoughtfully.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Bryan JohnsonBryan Johnson is founder of Kernel, OS Fund and Braintree. In 2016, he founded Kernel, investing $100M to build advanced neural interfaces to treat disease and dysfunction, illuminate the mechanisms of intelligence, and extend cognition. Kernel is on a mission to dramatically increase our quality of life as healthy lifespans extend. He believes that the future of humanity will be defined by the combination of human and artificial intelligence (HI+AI). In 2014, Johnson invested $100M to start OS Fund which invests in entrepreneurs commercializing breakthrough discoveries in genomics, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, precision automation, and new materials development. In 2007, he founded Braintree (acquired Venmo) which he sold to PayPal in 2013 for $800M. He is an outdoor-adventure enthusiast, pilot, and author of a children’s book, Code 7. You can follow his work at, on his Future Literacy publication on Medium, and on Twitter.

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