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Life beyond Longevity?

Part 1: Watching the Life of Bryan...

Dr. Gwen Bingle
July 7, 2023

Just 30 doctors, 200+ science backed protocols, 1,000 peer-reviewed references and 2 million dollars to regenerate the biological age of 78 organs…? Is that the real cost of longevity?

That’s what American entrepreneur and biohacker Bryan Johnson (45) would have you believe.

But we think you can still accomplish a lot – with far fewer resources!


The Dream of Longevity

Aaah, everlasting life… This is undoubtedly the most enduring fantasies to haunt the human imagination, as discussed in “Anti-Ageing and the Portrait in the Attic”. If anything, everlasting life − provided one remains healthy (and happy) − has become even more tantalising, now that preventive medicine, (epi)genetics, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence have teamed up to provide ever more insights into the ageing and the potential rejuvenation of our metabolisms.

So, Bryan Johnson’s experiment has certainly hit a nerve at epiAge. Here is a man who is ready to go all in for longevity, who not only lives and breathes it but is prepared to put his health on the line while exposing body and soul online – all this in the hopes of travelling back to 18 years old. A man ready to invest immense resources and spare no personal efforts, but also generous enough to openly share his concept and trials as well as his successes and tribulations. Indeed, Johnson believes in a transparent scientific approach to anti-ageing and is arguably one of the most quantified persons on the planet. At the same time, he is also willing to be personal and vulnerable about his foibles but appears hellbent on overcoming them. And there are the impressive results that keep rolling in on the “Blueprint”-homepage: beyond an overall biological age of 42.5, there are optimal values for BMI, cholesterol, testosterone, LDL, NAD, triglycerides, and so on and so forth.

Still, we wanted to find out more about the man and the myth behind the number-crunching, while exploring a more sustainable path to pursue the longevity dream…

young women in neon swimsuits on a beach
Roberto Nickson / pexels

Just another Californian craze?

American-style health improvement comes in many shades… If after Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger, California still represents the Mecca of sun-kissed but studio-sculpted fitness, an entirely different breed of health nerds has been hatching in a most unlikely milieu.

Branching out from Silicon Valley, a new generation of techies has emerged that does not want to take death for an answer. Having built impressive data processing emporiums that commodify virtually every aspect of life, these individuals understandably do not want to leave the party early by succumbing to the likes of Alzheimer or a boring old heart attack. So, instead of directing their data-mining efforts towards mastering the outside world, a growing number of entrepreneurs are directing their search inwards. The hope here is not just to crack the Hayflick limit. It is to pave the way for much longer (if not eternal) life and, in the process, remain as young and healthy as possible.

45-year-old entrepreneur Bryan Johnson no doubt represents the current figurehead of this quest, since he is not just investing in a quick-fix cure for ageing and decay but is actively doing something about it. As publicised in numerous videos and written contributions, experiment “Blueprint”, as Johnson has named his ambitious endeavour, is entirely devoted to a data-driven scientific approach to longevity. In his own words: I am trying to maximally slow the speed of my biological aging. My goal: one year of chronological time passes and my biological age stays the same.”  In so doing, he aims to rejuvenate “the biological age of his 78 organs”, with the help of “200+ science backed protocols” and “+ 1,000 Peer-reviewed References” – not to mention 30 doctors, $2 million dollars per year and a huge number of tests and procedures, since, as he concedes:There is no magic pill for this.”

Portrait of entrepreneur Bryan Johnson wearing a so-called Flow helmet
Bryan Johnson, Flow, Katriece Ray for Kernel

Johnson, however, is as far-removed from a neon-clad Californian beach idyll as humanly possible. At face value, he seems to radiate the sepia vitality of a freshly exhumed pre-Raphaelite corpse. In fact, his world – widely mediated through various (social) media channels – seems bathed in the muted earthy tones of a Gen-X childhood, minus the warm sunlight. His usually half-naked alabaster body looks like a pale root freshly plucked from the soil of an abandoned garden. His hair, the colour of dead leaves, and his pale eyes hardly enliven mostly frozen features. Indeed, his entire environment is a symphony of beigey-browny greens matching the grey sludge of his morning cocktail… The fact that Johnson recently exchanged blood plasma with one of his sons and his father only seems to add to his Transylvanian allure.

Portrait of Chatterton by Pre-Raphaelite painter Henry Wallis from 1856
Chatterton by Henry Wallis, Tate version, 1856

So, is Bryan Johnson an embodied oxymoron? As a figure of speech, oxymorons pair polarised objects and/or attributes such as “cold fires” or “the living dead” to uncover a paradox… Johnson certainly polarises. And his rabid pursuit of longevity seems to have transformed him into a life-simulating yet -negating post-human, following rigid protocols and a draconian (self-)testing regimen. But is there more to the man than meets the eye?  

American Psycho(tic) Health?

He certainly seems to have a sense of humour, even if he won’t let his critics deter him. In his videos and on his homepage, he will often quote some of the spiteful reactions his experiment seems to elicit. To the detractor who wishes he will “choke on a piece of broccoli”, he ironically admits that it is a distinct possibility. On Twitter, he even plays along with a commentator’s suggestion that he parodies Patrick Bateman’s infamous morning routine in American Psycho. Indeed, watching a Bryan Johnson short video sometimes feels chillingly close to witnessing the Bateman monologue – be it aesthetically or rhetorically:

“My name is Patrick Bateman. I'm 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and a rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy... I'll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack, I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, and on the face, an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an aftershave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion.”

Seen from this angle, one may feel justified in labelling Bryan Johnson as just one more creepy narcissistic freak who doesn’t want to die. Alternately, one may perceive him as a profoundly selfish individual with too much time and money on his hands. An individual who won’t even pretend to engage in philanthrocapitalism, instead investing everything in his own longevity. But as we will argue, by dismissing his endeavour as vain or insane, we may not do him justice and, to some extent, we may do disservice to ourselves.

Biography of a health apostle

Tired of all the snake oil, uncertainty and disagreements surrounding the pursuit of everlasting youth, Johnson wants to make longevity into a true science – beginning with his own body. He has decided to let his body speak out and reveal its true needs without the interference of his flawed human mind, as he describes it to interviewer Tom Bilyeu.  

Indeed, like most biographies of extreme health aficionados, Johnson’s life features a prominent watershed. Health watersheds are often clothed in mythical, quasi-mystical overtones: a deadly illness or a more insidious existential disappointment will catapult an individual into an identity crisis. With any luck, an insight will arise from within or through the help of a mentor that sets the course for a redemption of sorts. If successful, it usually pushes the subject to embrace a messianic role, attempting to convert all and sundry to an empowering new way of life.  

Young woman intensely exercising in a fitness studio
Andrea Piacquadio / pexels

Bryan Johnson is no exception to this pattern as he describes an entrepreneurial life rife with all-hours work, fast food, alcohol, a broken marriage, the loss of his Mormon faith and a decade-long depression. These existential challenges have made him acutely aware of the self-sabotaging strategies most of us contend with when it comes to leading healthy lives. Even when we do manage to achieve something healthful such as going to the gym, the temptation arises to offset it with a harmful behaviour such as indulging in cake.

Moral licensing, sabotage and the delegation of agency

Social psychologists have long identified this behaviour and labelled it as self- or moral licensing to describe the complex inner budgeting we often unconsciously engage in − be it in our human interactions, our relationship to nature or our health. Our doing something “good” somehow gives us the inner permission to do something “bad”. Bryan Johnson goes so far as to describe his inner saboteur as part of a split personality involving a number of different Bryans. The post 7pm Bryan is the one he most clearly incriminates. Why? Because this Bryan cannot control his intake of food and drink, making the lives of the other Bryans miserable. His solution? Firing the 7pm Bryan and outsourcing the decision-making to an algorithm that feeds on “gold-standard science” i.e., the allegedly most solidly peer-reviewed studies.  

Hand reaching out for a raspberry atop a rich chocolate cake
Polina Tankilevitsch / pexels

Challenging shaky theories of longevity and – most crucially – a slippery sense of free will, Johnson wants to let his body express its needs through the data it generates. But as a man with both means and time on his hands, he will not be content with just upgrading a Fitbit or implanting a chip. No, the entrepreneur is now spearheading a movement that emerged well before his birth: the tracking of the self or, as it is now called, the “quantified self”.

The quantified self: a contemporary fad?

Historically speaking, tracking the self is not as new as the likes of contemporary media would have you believe. Indeed, self-tracking has been going on for a long time. Even very “primitive” bookkeeping and journaling techniques have given anthropologists and historians insights into how people have managed their lives and bodies over countless generations. Scientific self-tracking picked up speed with the increasing popularisation of the scientific method from the 17th century onwards. In her introduction to a special issue of History of Science, Fenneke Sijsling, points to numerous early examples of quantifying the self – from Benjamin Franklin’s virtue inventory to self-monitoring with home thermometers, weighing scales, blood sugar analyses and even IQ tests.

A particularly interesting case in our context is an artefact invented by Santorio Santorio, a 16th century Italian physician, who devised a weigh-ing chair attached to a steelyard balance. As Teresa Hollerbach, who devised a reconstruction of the device, puts it, the purpose of “the weighing chair was to determine the healthy amount of food for each person using the chair to eat. Before a meal, one had to set a measure correspondent to the quantity of food one wanted to ingest. During the weighing procedure, the weighing chair would drop. As soon as one had reached the set measure, the meal would end. According to Sanctorius, the healthy amount of food was directly connected to the quantity of the perspiratio insensibilis, as the quantity, quality, and type of food and drink affected the expulsion and retention of the sensible and insensible excretions.” While clearly not a wearable technology or one that could account for energy spent moving, Santorio’s chair nevertheless fittingly highlights an early interest in quantifying the self with a health-oriented goal.  

Santorio Santorio's weighing chair, in: Quincy, John, Medicina Statica, Wellcome Collection Gallery

Beyond the growing interest in (self-)measurement as a scientific endeavour, Fenneke Sijsling emphasises that the examples she introduces uncover “new notions of autonomy, responsibility, citizenship, the possibility of self-improvement, and life-course decisions”. Most significantly, she points to the fact that self-measurement has always been totally entangled with a form of morality – be it lay or religious.

Data-mining the self

What has changed then between historical self-tracking and our current obsession with quantifying the self? From the 1970s onwards, two factors have greatly spurred on what was initially a fringe bio-tracking or -hacking movement as spin-offs of more serious technoscientific endeavours. Firstly, the development of wearables, i.e. new digital technologies worn ever closer to the body such as smartwatches, has allowed for the automated generation of a lot of (better quality) data through the targeted measurement of physiological parameters over time. In parallel, the data-gathering and analytical potential offered by digital technologies make for a much wider scope and scale of measurement, while providing broader comparison and correlation possibilities.

This is what makes Johnson’s experiment particularly titillating. Compared to your average bio-hacker who may be very dedicated but neither has the time nor the means to make it a full time occupation enrolling complex methodologies, Johnson has (or at least invests in) both. Be-yond these advantages, he also seems to have transformed the biggest let-downs in his life into powerful incentives. The religious belief he has lost in God seems to have been completely reinvested in Science and, after firing fickle “7pm Bryan”, his adhesion to the algorithmic system he co-created with his physicians appears unshakable.

Binary, Gerd Altmann/pixabay

A biohacker’s wet dream

Read on here


all digital sources have last been accessed on 07.07.2022, unless otherwise stated.

Bryan Johnson’s Website:

Subpage on his Blueprint experiment:

Videos by or with Bryan Johnson (selection):

Why I Am Spending Millions To Be 18 Again:, 30.01.2023

Will My Son’s Blood Make Me Younger?, 22.05.2023

Founders' Stories: Braintree's Bryan Johnson:, 17.03.2017

The Anti-AgingProtocol to REVERSE AGING & Live Over 120+ YEARS OLD | Bryan Johnson (Interviewwith Tom Bilyeu):, 09.02.2023

Overcoming Depression| Bryan Johnson and Lex Fridman:, 24.05.2021

Bryan Johnson Thinks AI SHOULD Run Your Life | Lifespan News with Emmett Short,, 04.06.2023


“Hayflick Limit”, Wikipedia,

Morning Routine - American Psycho (1/12) Movie CLIP (2000) HD, 15.03.2012:

On the concept of “self-/moral licensing”, cf. e.g., Mazar, Nina & Zhong, Chen-Bo, “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?”, Psychological Science, 21(4), 2010,pp. 494-498. Online:

Sysling, F. (2020). Measurement, self-tracking and the history of science: An introduction. History of Science, 58(2), 103–116. Available online here:

History of Science, Special issue: Measurement, Self-tracking and the History of Science. Volume 58 Issue 2, July 2020.

Hollerbach, Teresa, The Weighing Chair of Sanctorius Sanctorius: A Replica. N.T.M.26, 121–149 (2018)., Available online here:

Lupton, Deborah, The Quantified Self, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016.

Main illustration

Michelangelo Buonarotti / pexels

Dr. Gwen Bingle
epiAge Deutschland Content & Customer Relations
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