FREAK-TV: Care for a Brain Chip?


In the video player over to the left, you’ll find a new short video that’s a brain tease about your brain. Go give it a click, and then leave your answer in the comments section of this post.


Ah yes, the MST3K classic, The Brain That Wouldn't Die.

And I would totally do it, assuming it was affordable.


Do nothing

ben collins

I guess I would not do it. Although there is a ten percent chance of failure now, I am banking on the chance for further negative effects later even if the procedure is a success. Not because I'm a pessimist, but because it is a new surgery so all the kinks probably haven't been worked out yet. And speaking of Kinks, I don't think I could risk giving up my good taste in music.


Purely mathematically this is a win - (0.90*.40) + (0.10 * -.10) = 35% positive.

Of course nobody thinks this way, so emotionally I'd probably do it. After all it's sort of the same risk I took when I got my eyes lasered 6 years ago, and that turned out great.

You know what I'd go for in a shot though, is just a chip in my brain that I could use to Google (TM) stuff I don't know. Really that's all I'd need to be 100% functionally smarter while not sitting at a computer.

Mario Ruiz


1 out of ten, I would be 10% less intelligent vs being more intelligent 40% more?

Should I answer this one and be exposed to the risk of failure before the NY Times audience?

Honest answer without mathematical or logical considerations: NO. I am fine the way I am. I am afraid of medical procedures. Happiness is accepting the way we are.

Now the answer to the teaser (we have to get in the game, don't we): Yes. Consider this procedure is available for everyone, I would be an idiot, if I don't do it:-)

Mario Ruiz


I'd do nothing. Even though the drop is small relative to the potential gain, I value that portion of my intelligence much more than the potential gained amount.

On the other hand, if the question was asked at another time in my life, I might answer differently - I don't feel dead-set behind my answer, it's a pretty close thing right now. Reduce the risk to 1 in 20 and I think I'd go for it.


Over a large enough sample, the population gets a 35% brain boost.

Individually, for somebody in a highly competitive environment, say a professional athlete, the risk is probably worth it, likewise for people with little to lose (already well below average) and plenty to gain.

Me? Probably not. At least not initially. I can't see all those extra skills impacting my simple but happy life too much. Maybe with a clearer view of just how such a procedure could enhance my life by observing my peers who might take the plunge.

Mathematically it makes sense, but the real-world benefits are less obvious than the real-world drawbacks.


The expected value of the operation outweighs the risk. So yeah, do it. On the other hand, you only have one brain. If it's working for you now, why mess it up?


I predict that a lot of people will say they'd go for it. And when they do, that will lead me to wonder whether they would, for example, get on a random plane from a fleet where 1 in 10 aircrafts is defective and will surely explode mid-flight for, say, 10 million dollars.


For a 40% increase, I'd take my chances and do it.

Jimmy C

Based just on the odds, I'd say no. But when you think about, a whole lot of people are going to get this chip. That means if I don't get it, I'm guaranteed to decrease pretty significantly in intelligence, at least relative to the rest of the population. So I'd have to chance it just to keep from being pushed out of my profession (physics).


I'd do it.. if I could keep trying. :-)

If there's only one shot.. no way.

choco c

not sure that an increase in the quantity of present function is going to make much difference- a different QUALITY of function would be another matter. SO - no, wouldn't be interested

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

Dubner, this is outrageous! How dare you? Frankly, we already have More than enough stupid people in the world. I do Not think we need risk having any More added, through botched surgery. Good Lord, man, even with the favorable odds, when you consider how terribly terribly stupid the vast populace already is (I don't mean anyone who posts here, so please calm down, dear reader), this operation becomes a surgical risk of almost astounding, mind-boggling proportions!
Now, this question of having the operation applied to *myself*, is truly one of Immense absurdity. There is no point in making me any more intelligent. You don't mess with success. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Besides, with a surgically enhanced, chippered brain, I might very well become deadly dull at cocktail parties. So what's the point of being able to, say, solve a few sudoku puzzles in light of That? Please!


Heres a reason to do it. Take someone of high, though hardly world class intelligence. They could stand to lose 10% if their intelligence and still makeout above average. Maybe they'd become a Lawyer rather than doctor(just kidding). However, increase their intelligence 40% and suddenly you've reached world class levels of intelligence.


Who could trust these scientists' figures? 10% chance of 10% intelligence loss vs. 90% chance of 40% intelligence gain? If you can be that precise you could probably give me better odds. I'd love to see how they came up with those figures before I agreed to do it. But if I'm convinced, I would do it. People already think I'm 10% dumber than I really am and I think I'm 40% smarter than I really am, so either way my brain will finally match someone's perception.

Matt Johnson

Of course I would do it. Assuming that half the population does it, roughly 40% of the population would be much smarter, while I, in effect, got dumber.

Karl Frank

Not me. I would much prefer to maintain my current level of low intelligence than to take any chances of making it lower.


Hell yes I would. I assume that the best quantifiable aspect of intelligence is IQ. The average IQ is 100, a 10% drop still keeps you within the normal range. A 40% increase puts you between "gifted" and "genius." I assume that most readers here are in the "higher" or "above average" areas, so an increase would likely put your readers in the "genius" category.


Absolutely not.

I have bad luck. And I hate going under the needle.