Food for Thought: BrainCheck’s David Eagleman Makes His TV Debut

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have been in the business know this. What if an investor does this; what if partners steal that? It’s just a meter of experience.

Many academics, perhaps most, would not make good CEOs. For BrainCheck, I hired Yael and it’s so great to watch her and learn from her. It’s also the case that a lot of people kind of want to take on scientists, and their assumption is this person is an academic so that means they can’t tie their own shoes. That they don’t have any street smarts at all. There are some situations where academics are at risk of getting ripped off. The solution is opportunities for scientists to study entrepreneurship and learn the basics.

X: What’s the biggest hurdle in making the company successful?

D.E.: Good universities that have really good tech transfer formulas in place that are favorable to inventors, and everyone walks away happy. Bad investors nickel and dime inventors; they want above-market rates. That’s an easy way to fail.

X: Reading the New Yorker article on you from a few years ago, and it talked about how you like to have several projects going at once. It occurred to me that that’s the opposite of what we are hearing about how detrimental our over-distracted habits are for us. Are you an exception to this?

D.E.: It’s not not awful for me. It’s a constant struggle to just keep my head above water. The one advantage that comes from having lots of projects is that I constantly discover synergies. One project helps the other project in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen.

As an example, as I’ve been doing media for the TV series, people call in with questions, say, on live radio. I’m able to talk about BrainCheck. I can reach a wide audience and tell them all about what we’re doing with that.

As for multitasking and feeling stretched thin, I have not perfected anything wise there.

X: You collaborated with British composer Max Richter on “Lullaby for a Frenetic World?” (Part of Richter’s eight-hour opus called “Sleep.”) How did that come about?

D.E.: I wrote a book of fiction called “Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlives” and it got turned into two different operas: one at the Sidney Opera House by Brian Eno, and the other at the Royal Opera House by Richter. I went to London for the premier. He wanted to write a piece of music that would be played for eight hours as people slept. Starting a year ago, we set up a consultation, set up Skype meetings and talked about sleeping and dreaming. He did 100 percent of the work.

X: The show, “The Brain.” How did this come about? You would be reaching an audience far wider than a typical neuroscientist. What is the message you hope to convey?

D.E.: I’ve been working on this for two years now. I grew up watching (Carl) Sagan’s “Cosmos” and using science as a way to know the world around us. What’s cool about it, it’s the only series of its kind that has Houston in 50 percent of the scenes. You’ll recognize lots and lots of the places in it.

The series centers around big questions: Who am I? What is reality? Who’s in control? Do I need you? For the viewer, I hope it’s a powerful inroad into understanding one’s self.

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