The name Bryan Johnson may not ring a bell, but odds are you’ve already seen the man shirtless, posing with a vial of his son’s blood. The 46-year-old tech millionaire has made the rounds time and again on social media for going to extreme lengths to curb the effects of aging in a longevity project called Blueprint, which he calls an “algorithm” for preserving his body.
Johnson takes more than 100 supplements a day, submits himself to constant medical assessments, keeps to a strict diet that prohibits any food after 11 a.m., goes to bed at 8:30 p.m., and pursues experiments with a dizzying array of treatments: most notoriously, he tried blood-plasma donations from his teenage son (but quit after they showed no discernible benefit) and has sought to rejuvenate his penis with shockwave therapy. Blueprint also encompasses a range of specialty substances, including an extra virgin olive oil formulated to have “higher levels of polyphenolic compounds,” which can lower risk of various diseases. (Two bottles can be yours for just $75.)
Having embarked on this anti-aging odyssey two years ago, spending some $2 million per year, Johnson explains the regimen in great detail at seemingly every opportunity. As he puts it on his website, “My journey and protocol is openly shared and accessible to all.” He also has a forthcoming book, Don’t Die, about “the future of being human.” But a number of longevity experts have voiced skepticism about whether Blueprint can really turn back the clock in the way Johnson hopes, given how genetics play a role in determining lifespan and the all-consuming effort and discipline these methods require. And he has a way of talking about his “protocols” that make them sound like a historic leap forward in human consciousness — sometimes straining credulity.
Rolling Stone caught up with Johnson to hear more about how often he gets stuck with needles, the time airport security flagged him for “too many powders,” and why he wants to maximize his urination speed.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’re very open about everything you do to extend your lifespan, even down to some intimate details. Why do you want to publicize this project as much as you do?
Blueprint may seem like it’s about diet, sleep and health. It’s not. It’s about figuring out how we survive as a species. And if you look at this from a macro scale, we treat planet Earth like we treat our own bodies. Measure Earth with millions of biomarkers, you look at evidence and say, ‘What is the proper way to manage the coral reef, and the biosphere, and land and soil,’ and you would then create protocols that humans would deliver. So, for example, I’m a collection of 35 trillion cells. And before Blueprint, I had a wide variety of goals. There was Morning Me, Evening Me, Ambition Me, Dad Me, they all wanted different things at different times — I had conflicting outcomes. And I just ran this experiment to say, could I effectively align my 35 trillion cells to a single objective? It’s the same thing we’re doing on planet Earth: Can humanity align to an objective to keep our biosphere healthy? Can humanity align to achieve alignment with AI? And so Blueprint, the headlines are: I’m Dracula, and I’m doing penis rejuvenation, and I have blank, and blank, and blank. It’s really about species evolution.
Let’s talk about the more granular goals. You mentioned the penis rejuvenation. You’ve got some very interesting tweets about this. But can you explain, for example, why do you want to maximize your urination speed?
I had several longevity scientists pull me aside at a recent conference, and they said, we confess to being haters when you first started this. We acknowledge we love you now. Because we never imagined the dialogue of the anti-aging life extension movement would come in the form of plasma exchanges and penis rejuvenation and urine strains. We thought it was going to be Nature paper publications on DNA methylation patterns that blank, blank, blank — no one cares. People want their penis to work. They want to feel great, and they want to look great. And that’s how you understand the future is speaking to the needs people have in this very moment.
Regarding the future, why did your son want to attempt Blueprint in college, when most students aren’t thinking past the next weekend?
I’ve found that he and his friends grab onto these concepts with vigor that people my age do not. When I talk about my autonomous self, like, hey, I built this algorithm that takes better care of me that I can myself, they’re like, fuck yeah, let’s do it. They grew up with navigation, being automated, they grew up with these automated voice assistants, they grew up with all these algorithms that inherently better their life. And when an algorithm does something, they jump in, they don’t have the same skepticism. They’re very quick to change and move out of junk food and bad sleep. And this intuitively makes sense to them.
Are they going to bed at 8:30?
It’s not 8:30, it’s just choosing a bedtime and being consistent, and not being willing to pay the cost of the aging damage. When we go through the data, and we say, here’s what happens through DNA methylation patterns in your brain when you do this, your youth hides this age until a certain time that it all becomes apparent — they get it. It’s not that every kid in the world, but I’m saying the kids in his sphere, a decent representation of that demographic, they gravitate toward this with a strength, much more so than different age groups.
I saw you just completed what you called “six months of perfect sleep.” What was it like waking up that morning?
I’ve done my very best work in life in the past six months. I love reading, and you go back to the Seventeenth century, you read about everything that was written about in the Seventeenth century, it’s distilled into a few books. Again, everything happened in a hundred-year time period. It’s a few books. A fraction of whatever happened is actually preserved as our knowledge base as a species. And while we think we’re all so important in the early 21st century, our century is going to be distilled down to a very small representation of the information. And so we pose that question, we say, what is it what’s actually preserved for the early 21st century, the time you and I live? That, to me, is the most interesting question for the games I’m playing. And in the past six months, with my sleep being the way it is, I’ve had more clarity of thought than I’ve ever had in my entire life.
You’re doing this work, you’re on the strict, demanding regimen, you’re going to bed early — what do you do for fun?
My son and I went to Utah. I took him and his friends last weekend, we did a bunch of mountain biking, canyoneering. Just outdoor stuff. We went to New Zealand, we spent a couple of weeks there doing outdoor adventure. We do all sorts of things like that all the time. That’s really the payoff, is that I can physically do almost anything. And so, like, in Utah, we get a 14-mile ride and 104-degree temperature in the middle of a desert in the middle of the day. And we smoked it, I smoked all the boys, and I beat them all. And we had a fantastic time. And so that’s the reward, I think, of the rigor I’ve maintained. People say, “What’s your cheat day?” They think the reward is donuts and pizza, eating all these calories. That sounds like a dystopic world to me.
You’re able to travel and still maintain the medical routines that you’re going through?
Yeah, I’ve done a lot better. I tried to take Blueprint to New Zealand, and going through LAX, they call up the bomb squad, I got all the executive bomb squad people and a whole bunch of dogs. They patted me down three times. They took away a bunch of my stuff. I’ve gotten a lot better. I’m getting proficient at taking Blueprint around the world with me.
Can I ask what they confiscated?
Basically, I put together a bunch of powders in these little jars. And it was too much powder into many jars. And they’re like, this looks like powders you would detonate. So I learned you’ve got to do smaller jars and less powder, and then it makes it through.
The headlines always mention how much money you’re spending on this. How do you feel about healthcare inequality in America today? How does your project sit alongside that?
One way to go about revolution is not trying to change the system within, but trying to build a new system. And that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s why I’ve made everything I’ve done available for free. If you’re someone of the world who cares about your health and wellness, you now need to go out in the world and figure out what to do. And so the resources available to you are Reddit forums, and blog posts, and podcasts, and your doctor. And you have to somehow figure out how to put together a diet supplement protocol, exercise protocol and sleep [protocol], when every single person the world has a different recommendation. Good luck. And so what I’ve tried to do is to say, I’m going to do all this hard work for you. I’m going to share all my data. And I’m going to give you a baseline. So if you say I want to start right now, you have the whole thing ready for you right now, as I’ve tried to punch through and be the first example in the world that punches through the insanity of trying to figure out what to do. Now, not to say it’s going to be a fit for everybody. But it’s a place to start that’s firm, and you can do anything to iterate from there.
I assume you’re aware that there are these online communities of people trying to emulate you, but, you know, without the resources.
I am, yeah.
So I understand what you’re saying about Blueprint being a blueprint, something that people can look to as a resource. But what about these people who can’t afford, the equipment, the different materials you’re using, they can’t be testing biomarkers as often as you are. How can they navigate this?
There’s power laws in this. Just basically getting good sleep, exercising and avoiding bad habits, you get the majority of the benefits. I’m playing for the final 20 percent you can eke out, but somebody can be competitive with me just by doing the basics. You don’t need to do everything I’m doing.
I’m guessing you’re not afraid of needles?
[Laughs]. I get a lot of them.
How often would you say, in terms of what I would guess I would call an invasive procedure — how often is that happening in your routine?
Over the past week alone, past seven days, I’ve probably been stuck by a needle 60 times.
And that doesn’t get old.
No. Everything I value — and you probably feel the same way — is on the other side of pain. You know, doing homework when you don’t want to, working out when you don’t want to. Having a hard conversation with relationship repair. Everything that we want requires we do hard things. So I enjoy doing hard things.
You’re creating this roadmap to longevity. But the point of longevity is more time, right? What will living longer actually allow you to accomplish?
I would submit that we we are as helpless in understanding the future as Homo erectus was 1 million years ago. So had we pulled up and talked to them, an ax in their hand they haven’t innovated for a million years, and said, hold on, just tell us your aspirations for life? What do you want to live for? Never would Homo erectus talk about quantum mechanics and about traveling in intergalactic space, or about the micro-world of atoms, molecules. It’s not something that person understood. And I think we’re equally as helpless. And so when humans are confronted with this idea of some life extension, their brain basically breaks down. They’re like, oh, my god, I don’t know what I would do, I want to die. So we’re helpless to imagine the things we aren’t familiar with. And we’re walking into the age where super-intelligence is baby-steps away. So I don’t think it’s our responsibility to even imagine it. I don’t think it’s even our responsibility to have a motivation for it. I think it’s our responsibility to be around for it.
Would you describe that as optimism about the future?
In its most extreme form, I’m suggesting it does not matter what the human mind says at this point in time. We are accustomed to thinking that our human mind is the absolute authority on all things. And I’m suggesting that it’s no longer the case. The human mind has been the most superior form of intelligence on this planet for quite some time; computational Intelligence just exceeded our minds in many domains. I basically agreed to this algorithm that my body runs itself. My mind observes — my mind no longer decides. And this is not a Bryan Johnson preference, not a Bryan Johnson style. This is the inevitability of overall technology.
Are we saying that your your program is directed by artificial intelligence?
A hundred percent. The the most important insight of Blueprint, the single most important insight, is that I’ve built an algorithm that takes better care of me that I can myself, it has exceeded my abilities. And now if I can pull my mind on this or that, my mind’s going to spin up hundreds of arguments, philosophical arguments, storytelling, everything about this, and that doesn’t matter. And this is what I had to do to align my 35 trillion cells. I still do not trust my mind in a pantry full of goodies.
What is the algorithm going to tell you to do after this interview?
That’s the thing. This is the most exciting question. In every movie like Blade Runner and other things, they paint the future where everything around us changes, flying cars, droids — the thing that remains the same is our minds. We have yet to map out a future where our conscious existence changes. I’m currently writing a children’s novel about the divide between a younger generation that grows up in this new conscious state of a blurred line between algorithmic design preference decision and what we are generating — you and I — and experience as our conscious state. And how that’s the bridge of morphing our conscious existence. It’s unimaginable to us but I’m basically a step in there right now, myself, having an algorithm read everything I do.