Transforming our Health & Lifespan: A Conversation with Bryan Johnson, The World’s Most Measured Human.

Transforming our Health & Lifespan: A Conversation with Bryan Johnson, The World’s Most Measured Human.

Bryan Johnson is the world’s most measured human. Johnson sold his company, Braintree Venmo, to PayPal for $800m in 2013. Through his Project Blueprint, Johnson has achieved metabolic health equal to the top 1.5% of 18-year-olds, inflammation 66% lower than the average 10-year-old, and reduced his speed of aging by the equivalent of 31 years. 

Johnson freely shares his protocols and data publicly for everyone to use. Project Blueprint, is an endeavour to achieve humanity and earth scale cooperation starting within Self.  In 2023, Johnson launched Rejuvenation Olympics, a leaderboard assessing one’s speed of aging using DNA methylation. Of the 1,750 people who have been using this state-of-the-art aging algorithm to track their progress longitudinally, Johnson ranks #1 in speed of age reduction. Johnson is also the founder & CEO of Kernel, creator of the world’s first mainstream non-invasive neuroimaging system; and OS Fund, where he invested $100M in the predictable engineering of atoms, molecules, and organisms into companies now collectively valued over $6B.  

In this interview I speak to Bryan Johnson, entrepreneur, investor & the world’s most measured human. We discuss the need to radically rethink the future of our species through the lens of our health & wellbeing and how his own multi-million-dollar exploration into health & ageing has reduced his aging by over 31 years.  

Q: Why did you embark on a mission to radically rethink the future of our species? 

[Bryan Johnson]: My grasp on reality is primarily through biographies. When reflecting on the 16th and 17th centuries, historians capture only a fraction, maybe 1%, of all that transpired. Yet, entire centuries are condensed into a minimal set of facts. Considering what was deemed significant then, who played pivotal roles, and what they perceived or missed offers a unique perspective. It allows us to understand the evolution of technology, philosophy, and geopolitical norms of those times. Now, if we attempt a similar exercise for our era, projecting ourselves forward to later in the 21st century and looking back, what would the narrative be? To me, that’s the crux of my work…, embarking on that very thought experiment. 

In the past, the human brain could synthesize information and anticipate the future. But now, in an era where computational intelligence dominates innovation, no human can accurately forecast what lies ahead. For the first time as a species, we’re truly in the dark about what’s around the corner. 

Q: How was your approach shaped by thinking of the ‘character’ running your life? 

[Bryan Johnson]: …it emerged from a mix of necessity, despair, and humour. Even though various versions of myself were right before my eyes, I couldn’t discern the differences. When I finally recognized them, it freed me. It enabled a systematic approach, giving me the leverage, I once felt I lacked. Before, I felt ruled by myself; now, I have the power to navigate my own course. 

Q: Why is measurement important for human improvement? 

[Bryan Johnson]: Reflecting on history, be it the invention of the steam engine, the spinning jenny, or any technological advancement, society’s opinions on them—whether it’s job displacement or shifts in power—don’t change the technology’s impact. It permeates our society. If we examine the current shift, the human mind, once the pinnacle of intelligence, is now overshadowed by computational intelligence in many domains. Algorithms understand and can guide me better than I can guide myself. The real game-changer is data. Without it, algorithms couldn’t function effectively. While the algorithms have always been there, they lacked the essential fuel of data. With Blueprint, I’ve demonstrated that once you provide that data, you create a self-sustaining system. I’m willing to yield control to an algorithm that proves to be superior. 

Q: What has been the relationship of technology to our humanity? 

[Bryan Johnson]: We’re all familiar with the tale of Adam and Eve, a narrative we’ve embodied ever since. But what if we reimagined our beginning with concepts like zero and infinity? Algorithms will soon surpass our innate ability to cater to our health, wellness, and overall well-being. We’ll willingly embrace them as they aid us in attaining our desires: sex, love, joy, status, wealth, esteem, and a sense of community. As this unfolds, uncharted realms of purpose and significance will surface, ones we can’t currently fathom. Will we possess free will? Did we ever? Will it even matter to us? The act of humans making choices will become a mere memory. We’ll be spectators in a novel arena. But is this the zenith of liberty or just a cage? At times, the future beckons, dragging us into its grandeur—resistance may be futile. 

Q: How do we find meaning over potentially multi-century lifespans? 

[Bryan Johnson]: In 1812, the global literacy rate was about 12%, and now it’s risen to an impressive 87%. Reflecting on the profound value of literacy and our capacity to communicate in a shared language, I’ve introduced the idea of ‘future literacy’—it’s my foundational approach. It’s a challenging concept for most; we naturally strive for comprehension, aiming to reduce uncertainties and yearning for clarity. The impending future, however, is a vast unknown, and it’s overwhelming for our minds to grasp. Take the question of eternal life: many balk at the idea of living forever, finding it incomprehensible. Yet, if asked whether they’d like to live another day, the answer is typically ‘yes’, even though an endless sequence of ‘tomorrows’ essentially equates to eternity. It’s a fascinating insight into human cognition—our difficulty with grasping the concept of infinity without some tangible context. 

You’ve touched upon a key point: the media often misconstrues my perspectives. But that’s intentional. The future won’t be introduced through philosophical discourses; it will be ushered in with tangible advancements and, admittedly, some of my more unconventional appearances. The current global language is a mix of the absurd and the entertaining. Misrepresentation, in a way, helps communicate complex ideas in today’s landscape; direct articulation might not suffice. 

Q: How do you think about our mental, and cognitive capabilities? 

[Bryan Johnson]: Historically, we’ve viewed the human mind as the paramount problem solver. Yet, is it still our ally, or has it become our adversary? I believe we’re at a juncture where the human mind is shifting towards the latter, especially when compared to emerging alternatives. Take myself as an example: faced with a pantry full of treats, I can’t trust my own judgment. Frankly, I often doubt my decisions. Observing our collective actions concerning climate change and the handling of weapons of mass destruction, people question the essence of life and happiness. In essence, they’re expressing their mind’s discomfort and perceived threat. However, my contention is that the human mind’s viewpoint, at this moment, may be inconsequential. We’ve had our time in the spotlight; now, a new form of intelligence emerges. It’s a harsh realization, but personal experiences often reaffirm this notion. 

Q: How will our biology intersect with technology? 

[Bryan Johnson]: Indeed, the essence of it all is recognizing that our computational tools, including mobile phones and servers, are advancing at a pace that’s beyond our comprehension, even as we face inevitable declines. Blueprint is rooted in the desire to place oneself on a trajectory of exponential growth. To achieve this, one must let their body seamlessly communicate with technology and science, ensuring improvements and adaptations without the mind’s interruptions, such as opting for a cheat day. Essentially, our bodies must align with the systematic progression of technology. This is the reason behind my moniker, ‘zero’. The introduction of zero transformed mathematics, art, physics, and more. Now, it’s humanity’s turn. I see myself as the pioneering ‘zero’—the inaugural integration of a human with technology, aiming for an autonomous growth trajectory. 

Q: What would be your advice to people from your journey so far? 

[Bryan Johnson]: It’s crucial not to let oneself become overwhelmed. In my view, there are two primary strategies to approach personal change. The first is by adopting positive habits, like initiating a workout routine or ensuring timely sleep. The alternative is to focus on eliminating negative behaviours, perhaps a particular vice that’s been a consistent obstacle. Whether you opt to cultivate a good habit or eradicate a bad one, the key is to start small. Take one step at a time and build upon that. It’s essential not to bite off more than you can chew, leading to burnout. Commitment to this gradual approach is fundamental for lasting change. 

Q: What are your views on death, and how we see that? 

[Bryan Johnson]: I don’t harbour a fear of death. It’s not something that occupies my thoughts. My love and gratitude for life run deep, and I cherish every moment of existence. Given my intellectual understanding, I believe that in 2023, the pinnacle goal of intelligence should be the pursuit of continued existence. In past eras, where the inevitability of death was certain, one had the liberty to decide how to spend their limited time. However, today, I struggle to comprehend why any sentient being would choose any path other than striving for prolonged existence.  

Imagine traveling back in time and presenting a question to Homo erectus. Here we have this early human, still developing speech, using an axe that remained unchanged for a million years. Ask him, ‘Would you wish to live indefinitely?’ He’d probably wonder if it meant just wandering around and hunting indefinitely. This mindset, favouring what’s familiar, is quite human. In my experiences, I’ve observed that those defending the inevitability of death vastly outnumber the proponents of indefinite life. This almost trance-like acceptance of the status quo is genuinely surprising to me. 

Thought Economics

About the Author

Vikas Shah MBE DL is an entrepreneur, investor & philanthropist. He is CEO of Swiscot Group alongside being a venture-investor in a number of businesses internationally. He is a Non-Executive Board Member of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and a Non-Executive Director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Vikas was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List and in 2021 became a Deputy Lieutenant of the Greater Manchester Lieutenancy. He is an Honorary Professor of Business at The Alliance Business School, University of Manchester and Visiting Professors at the MIT Sloan Lisbon MBA.