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Jonathan Berent remembers the day he decided to start NextSense, a startup that makes revolutionary earplugs that read brain waves and can help treat conditions such as epilepsy, insomnia and depression. At the time, Berent was working at X, Google’s iconic “moonshot factory” — a lab for developing ambitious, sci-fi-sounding solutions to the world’s problems. Like earplugs that read your brain waves.
It was October 18, 2019, when Berent met with Google’s chief economist to discuss whether reading people’s brain waves would invade their privacy. The path that led him to that meeting was a circuitous one: For nearly a decade, Berent had led a sales team for Google Ads, where he cultivated his interest in Eastern philosophy and turned his office into a “wisdom library” with a yoga mat. for meditation. He also harbored a long-running fascination with sleep, and when he got wind of research suggesting you could track and possibly improve sleep patterns through EEG [electroencephalogram] earbuds, he took the concept to X. He eventually worked on a project called Heimdallr, which explored whether human brains could control computers. That’s what landed him in the chief economist’s office.