This is the fourth entry in the IN CONVERSATION series. Click here to read last week’s entry with Vine star OBT.
Humai is a robotics and medical research company seeking to do what humans once thought was impossible: end death. Josh Bocanegra is the founder and CEO of the startup. He’s been featured in Forbes, TIME Magazine, TechCrunch, Bloomberg, and many other notable publications.
Bocanegra has been called a visionary, a huckster, and everything else you can imagine in between. There is no doubt that what he’s attempting is both dynamic and idealist. What’s more, with budding technology it is also entirely possible.
This is my exchange with Humai founder Josh Bocanegra.
JAYME KARALES for CLASH: First off, I’m really fascinated by your plans for Humai. On the surface, it seems like a really common sense idea — figuring out a way to avoid death. Yet, this kind of thing is often looked at as ‘science fiction.’ Many think it’s an impossibility. Then again, if you were to hand a caveman a television playing a rerun of Miami Vice, he’d probably think he was staring into the depths of Hell. In any case, care to refute the claim that such a thing is impossible?
JOSH BOCANEGRA of HUMAI: Ha! Good point. I think our mission can be widely misunderstood by some, but really all we’re doing is transplanting the brain to a bionic body. Though it isn’t a simple task, we believe it will be possible.
I suspect the most controversial part of our mission is the idea of resurrecting a human. Cryonics is the technology we believe offers the very best option for the potential restoration of life. We’re working on partnering with cryogenic organizations to give our members an option to preserve themselves after death until the technology is fully developed.
KARALES: On your site, you’ve gone into a bit of detail about your company’s strategy in retaining human consciousness. Where is the science/technology currently at in terms of reaching that?
BOCANEGRA: To be clear, we’re not looking to upload consciousness. However, I consider what we’re working on is a prelude to uploading consciousness. We want to physically transplant the brain to a thought-controlled bionic body. The science for transplanting a brain to any body is close but still has a few challenges. The main challenge is making the brain function with artificial body parts, however there are prosthetic and bionic body parts available to amputees today, that are controlled solely by thought. This is a big step and a doorway of hope that our mission is achievable.
KARALES: How exactly do you plan to bridge biology and technology?
BOCANEGRA: The biological brain will essentially connect to artificial body parts that can be controlled by responses to brain waves. Think of the brain as giving commands and sending signals that tell your bionic body what to do and how to move. We’re still researching the best possible way to do this.
KARALES: What is the prospective timeline like on Humai’s research? By what year do you anticipate running physical tests?
BOCANEGRA: The research will be ongoing, even after our mission in complete as we will be looking for ways to make the process easier and safer. Alcor Life Extension Foundation recently discovered that memories can indeed be cryopreserved.
We’re not 100% sure what year exactly we will begin human trials, but what we do know is we’d be running multiple animal trials before the first human brain transplant into a bionic body.
The best case scenario and overall goal is that you don’t have to die. If we can build this bionic body that connects to the brain soon enough, you can essentially “move out” of your biological body so you don’t have to deal with the consequence of the natural human biological process; aging, disease, sickness etc.
KARALES: If accomplished, Humai would make the greatest advancement in the history of life itself. But what was your personal motivation for tackling this endeavor?
BOCANEGRA: I think what inspired me as an entrepreneur to start Humai was the personal realization that money isn’t a great motivator for me. No matter what I did in the business world, I’ve always felt unfulfilled. I realized that I wanted to work on something meaningful, long-lasting and that will have an undeniable impact on other people’s lives.
I love experiencing life, not much of a material person, and I love learning. I realize death takes both of those desires away and it’s very unfortunate. I understand not everyone wants to extend their lives but for those who do, we only want to make life after death an option.
A significant amount of research we’re doing is in artificial intelligence. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of AI… Oddly enough though, I’ve never really been interested in science fiction as a kid. I’ve only been interested in actual science and how to the world works. I started to become more interested in learning about A.I when i started to teach myself code and that was about 3 years ago.
KARALES: What kind of backing have you received thus far?
BOCANEGRA: We have multiple offers from investors but we haven’t finalized anything yet. So far, since we’re still early-stage, all funding has come directly from me.
KARALES: What is your staff currently like and since Humai started making headlines, what has the response been in terms of people looking to get involved?
BOCANEGRA: We’ve gotten so much support from people across the world. So many people are interested in working with us. It’s very humbling and exciting. I’ve lost track of how many have contacted us willing to join the team. We have dozens of emails of people who want to be “test subjects” and dozens more that want to be long term team members. We are filtering through the emails and will be contacting/considering those seriously interested in joining us.
KARALES: Where can people go to read more about Humai?
BOCANEGRA: For now, we’re making updates in our mailing list in social media. You can sign up to get updates via email at HumaiTech.com or follow us on Social media. In the next few weeks, we’ll be updating the site with milestones and an FAQ section, along with other information.