Behind Bryan Johnson’s $4 Million Bid for Immortality
When it comes to living a long life, Bryan Johnson has a simple mantra: don’t die. The quest to not die has cost the 45-year-old billionaire biohacker and entrepreneur over $4 million—so far. The money, Johnson said on the Diary of a CEO podcast, went primarily towards scientific research and measurement protocols.
“I say don’t die because we, as a species, sometimes have a difficult time cooperating on a variety of things,” Johnson told Decrypt in an interview. “So you give any topic that arises, you hear almost an infinite number of opinions on a given thing, and we have a very hard time agreeing.
“The one thing we all agree upon every single day is don’t die,” he quipped.
Johnson said the idea of “don’t die” can be seen in everyday life, from looking both ways before crossing the street to changing the smoke alarm when it beeps and throwing out moldy food.
“So every single one of us, with a few exceptions of those on the brink of suicide, basically have don’t die as their number one priority and existence,” he said. “Nothing is more important to them than don’t die.”
Johnson began his longevity quest in August with his first high-profile experiment, attempting to rejuvenate his penis with electro-therapy.
“What do men care about more than anything else?” Johnson said. “A man’s ability to be erect and to have a healthy sexual life is really important, and if a man cannot become erect and cannot have sexual intercourse, it is psychologically debilitating. It is a source of shame and embarrassment.”
Johnson said that goal of bringing attention to his penis rejuvenation therapy was to fight the taboo around erectile dysfunction and discuss therapies that have evidence that do help those in need.
In October 2021, Johnson launched Project Blueprint, a step-by-step guide and report on his longevity journey.
“The blueprint is not to chastise anyone or to say they need to be more self-disciplined,” Johnson said. “Society is unfair right now—it put it pits all these godlike powers against the individual to make them addicted to everything. What I’m saying is this was silly, and this was harming all of us. So let’s make perfect health, like magic.
“The Blueprint is trying to build up the infrastructure for me initially, for others, and now for the societal level,” he continued. “It just makes sense that everyone is doing this as a norm.”
Johnson is not alone in his quest for longevity, having also brought his father and son on the journey.
“I gave my dad, my 71 year old father, one liter of my plasma, he had 600 milliliters of his plasma removed; It reduced his speed of aging by 25 years,” Johnson said, noting that the older a person gets, the faster they age. “So that means when every day we age, every day we get a little closer to death.”
“My father went from aging at the speed of a 71-year-old to the age of a 46-year-old with one liter of my plasma, and that effect persisted for six months,” he added. “It was a dramatic change in his life.”
Johnson did acknowledge that his experiment with receiving his 17-year-old son’s plasma did not affect his health.
“There just wasn’t that big of a difference between my and their health levels,” Johnson said. “So it’s just no effect.”
Another person on Johnson’s longevity quest is Kate Tolo, a former employee of the neuroscience firm Kernel, which Johnson founded in 2016. Tolo is the first woman to commit to the Blueprint.
“I would argue that, even if it’s only a marginal improvement, it’s worth taking this step toward looking after oneself just a little bit better,” Tolo said on the Diary of a CEO podcast.
“I’d spent the year learning about AI coming to mainstream and how the human species is going to deal with this,” she told host Steven Bartlett. “I felt very strongly the only way to [move] forward as a species would be to latch ourselves on to AI and to merge with AI in some way.”
A vital component of the Blueprint is sleep, which Johnson said he built his life around.
“Nothing is more important to me than sleep,” Johnson said, likening the necessity of quality sleep to putting an air mask on in an airplane first before helping others.
“I plan when I eat, my social events, my work schedule, everything around sleep, which is exactly the exact opposite of what society does right now,” Johnson said, adding that he has posted eight months of perfect sleep.
In an interview with Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance, Johnson emphasized that stopping self-destructive habits is critical to live longer, healthier lives.
“We all have these versions inside of us where we commit this self-destructive behavior, and we do so again and again,” he remarked. “Oftentimes some of the biggest gains can be made if we just stopped some of those more self-destructive behaviors.”
In September, a sleep report by an interdisciplinary team of international researchers said people who have less regular sleep patterns have a higher risk of death before age 75. The team included experts from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Broad Institute—a biomedical and genomic research center located in Cambridge, Mass.—Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Monash University in Australia, and the University of Manchester in the U.K.
Technology is a key factor in Johnson’s longevity quest, and he said artificial intelligence has helped regiment and simplify his lifestyle.\
While an algorithm controlling our daily lives may not sound appealing, ask a YouTuber. Johnson likened the experience to a captain’s reliance on traditional methods, like personal judgment, instead of autopilot.
“We’ve given birth to baby super intelligence, and it’s moving faster than we can comprehend,” Johnson said. “What I’m saying is that we are at this special moment in time where we are transitioning the species from this idea that we’re just going to die, so we might as well live it up, to we don’t know how long and how well we can live therefore, don’t die becomes our only priority.”
In the story Johnson cited, a ship captain gets into an argument of signals with what he thinks is another ship, when he’s in fact approaching a lighthouse. The billionaire said it illustrates how people often overestimate the level of control they have and that they should instead trust technology like autopilot and artificial intelligence.
“The key here is that when technology improves to a certain degree, it gets much better that it augments our abilities to achieve a given task,” Johnson said. “What I’m saying is, for the longest time, we could be captains of our ship and make all these little decisions here and there. Now, we’re in a different reality, and it’s much better for us to hit autopilot.”
“What I’ve built is an autopilot for my health because it does a better job for me,” he said. “The future is a lighthouse, something that we’re just not going to beat.”
While detractors may scoff and hurl insults, Johnson takes it all in stride.
“I have nothing to prove, I’m not on the defensive,” Johnson said. “I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
“I’m having the time of my life,” Johnson reiterated. “I know that headlines lead people to think inaccurate things about me, and that’s okay; we can go on this journey together, and we’ll find out who each other is in time. But no, I’m great, you’re great, and this is going to be a good time together.”
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.