Is there a Silicon Valley philosophy that isn’t just ego and vanity and selfishness?

Does this man look 18 to you? How about 30?

I would have guessed he was in his 40s, and would have won a kewpie doll. He’s 45. His name is Bryan Johnson. He has, however, set himself the goal of reversing aging and getting his ‘epigenetic age’ down to something absurd, by making his body the subject of an “experiment” — although it is an experiment with no controls, no comparisons of the effectiveness of various treatments, and a subjective criterion of “perfection,” which he alone defines.

As of now, Johnson claims that the experiment, which he’s dubbed Project Blueprint, is more concerned with understanding the possibilities of one body—his own—than in creating a replicable system. The journey has led to improved physical health, but the most inarguable effect thus far has been on his physical appearance. He has dropped 60 pounds, and a recent MRI scan found that Johnson was in the 99th percentile for both body fat and muscle concentration—proof, he said, of his achieving “the perfect body ratio.” The muscles everywhere from his shins up to his neck appear to almost protrude out of him, and his skin wraps tightly around his face, which is the point: Johnson puts his skin through regular and painful skin rejuvenation processes, on top of the obligatory application of numerous daily creams. After two years, he claims, his skin is that of a twenty-something and his fitness level is that of an 18-year-old; his body also now runs three degrees cooler than it used to. More than 50 of his biomarkers are also now “perfect,” he has said. He even claims he has been able to stop dying his hair as of three months ago, after making “significant progress reversing gray hair.”

Do twenty-somethings look that shiny and moist? I see a lot of them running around here, and they really don’t look like middle-aged somethings who just got back from the spa with a miracle gel filling their pores. Is running 3 degrees cooler actually a good thing, or has he just decided that it must be?

Let’s assume, charitably, that he has improved his personal health, since he does look fit. How does he do it? By throwing ridiculous amounts of money at it, of course. He’s a silicon valley dudebro!

Johnson says that he spends more money on his body than LeBron James. With this sizable budget (more than $2 million a year), he pays for the food he eats (a precise 1,977 calories a day, made up of the world’s most nutritious elements), as well as the 112 to 130 supplemental pills he takes on a daily basis, and the ultrasound machine and other medical-grade machinery he keeps on the second floor of his discrete compound in Venice, Los Angeles, where he and his team of more than 30 doctors, clinicians, and researchers analyze how the 78 organs that make up his body have responded to the latest tweaks to his diet, sleep, and movement.

Oooh, precisely 1977 calories a day…sounds specific and sciencey. Until you learn that he picked that number because that’s the year he was born, not because there’s some evidence that that’s an optimal number. It’s simply another example of the whims of the privileged rich nincompoops who infest tech culture.

Extreme as the specifics of his approach might be—this is a man who has a device that tracks his nightly erections—Johnson falls squarely in line with many of his Silicon Valley peers. In recent years, people throughout the technology sector have taken increasingly innovative—and often eccentric—approaches to their personal health and wellness in a pursuit of a longer, happier life. The industry is chock-full of people who, for example, eat five cans of sardines a day or consume nothing but coffee, water, and tea for over a week straight. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made headlines in 2019, when he announced that he fasted for 22 hours a day and often went days with nothing but water, sparking concerns that the tech sector was “rebranding eating disorders” as wellness. But it was not entirely outside of the norms of an industry that has become taken with “biohacking,” in which one approaches the body as a computer program, to be forever tweaked and optimized.

He doesn’t really care about the science. None of them do.

Existing in a state of perpetual and extreme caloric restriction makes it difficult to fit all the nutrients he needs into his diet. He believes a constant caloric deficit to be “the number one evidence-based health protocol,” though when I later asked specifically what research convinced Johnson to remain in a state of extreme caloric restriction, the only answer I got was “scientific evidence.” Levine, the Altos researcher, said that studies on caloric restriction have led to mixed results and mostly focused on animals. Experiments on mice, for example, have found that while some benefit from restriction, others do not or even experience negative effects. A new study on flatworms out just this month found “no benefits to lifespan” outside of “perfect” environments, as Levine put it.

This is an exercise in supernatural thinking. They want to live forever in youthful vigor — I don’t blame them for that, I would kinda like that myself — but in the absence of real evidence, and with the fact that they’re asking to defy the physical nature of their existence, they just have to make stuff up, or clutch at feeble signs of improvement and imagine that they can amplify that indefinitely. Here goes Bryan Johnson, dreaming that all of his obsessive hypochondria will help him reach his goal of immortality. It won’t.

He claims to have the altruistic goal of helping humanity live decades longer, of increasing the time they have to accomplish great things, which is noble of him. I wonder, though, if people would be able to achieve great things if they have to focus so intensely and with such effort and expense on their personal vanity. Is extending life span (which Johnson has not done) really worth it?

Consider the male spider. He’s small relative to the female, who is a ruthless predator with no qualms against cannibalism. Should he expend most of his effort in growth, bulking up and building his strength, trying to match the physical advantages of the female? Or should he be content with being small, fast, and agile, quickly scampering to females at the earliest possible age to take his shot?

I can tell you that my spiders have chosen the scamper strategy. If they tried to focus on body building before daring to mate, they’d find that a scamperer had been there before them. And that the female might eat them anyway.

If you prefer human analogies, imagine that Alexander the Great had stayed home in Pella, abstaining from wine, living on a spare diet of pulses, slathering his face with the richest cosmetics. He’d probably have lived to be as old as Bryan Johnson! He wouldn’t have had “the Great” slapped on his name, though.

Maybe Alexander the Vain?


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    the food he eats (a precise 1,977 calories a day, made up of the world’s most nutritious elements), as well as the 112 to 130 supplemental pills he takes on a daily basis,

    I wonder if those “supplemental pills” are actually just Skittles.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    … sparking concerns that the tech sector was “rebranding eating disorders” as wellness.

    Not a real concern. The term “wellness” has been co-opted for alternative pseudo-medial BS for decades.
    Chiropractic Wellness Care

  3. ANB says

    My brother’s brother-in-law was one of the founders of Yahoo. He sold out years ago (double entrendre not intentional, but apt). When I talk to my brother, sometimes we note how less than happy this guy is (certainly compared to my brother and myself–one a now retired scientist and one a now retired educator). He’s a billionaire. I don’t know him well, and he’s a generation older than this weirdo, but we’re all going to live about the same amount of time and be forgotten, except for our families, in no time at all.

    I like my very humble life. My name, btw, is Alexander. When people make the joke about “the Great” I respond with “the Adequate.”

  4. drickard says

    “Is there a Silicon Valley philosophy that isn’t just ego and vanity and selfishness?”
    No. This has been another simple answer to a silly question.

  5. lotharloo says

    I was very confused by the “3 degrees cooler” until I figured it must be in Fahrenheit. It’s Fahrenheit, right?

  6. Dunc says

    He claims to have the altruistic goal of helping humanity live decades longer, of increasing the time they have to accomplish great things

    We could actually do this for a significant proportion of humanity, very easily, right now, with simple, proven interventions like “adequate nutrition” and “decent healthcare”.

    Personally, I’m less concerned with people “accomplishing great things” (who gets to define “great”?) than with people being happy. And I have a hard time believing that somebody exhibiting something what looks like a very disordered relationship with his own body can be all that happy…

  7. rabbitbrush says

    His secret is being hydrated, from “the 112 to 130 supplemental pills he takes” daily. That’s a LOT of water to gulp down.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    After years of research, I have hit upon the exact quantities of nicotine, alcohol and chocolate to optimize my happiness.

  9. raven says

    Eat right, stay fit, die anyway.

    There have always been people like Bryan Johnson on the fringe, for many decades now.
    It even has a name and a Wikipedia page, the anti-aging movement.
    I don’t have a problem with it, in general.

    But the way this guy is going about it isn’t very useful.
    And N of 1 and no control group. Multiple variables in the same experiment.
    “…as well as the 112 to 130 supplemental pills he takes on a daily basis,” Ok, which of these pills is actually doing something, which are useless, and which are harmful. The way this experiment is set up, there is no way to tell.

    We can do a lot to keep ourselves healthy just by using our current knowledge and common sense. Eat right, keep fit, no tobacco, moderate alcohol, etc..

    More than you want to know about the anti-aging movement at Wikipedia.

    Anti-aging movement

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The anti-aging movement is a social movement devoted to eliminating or reversing aging, or reducing the effects of it.[1][2] A substantial portion of the attention of the movement is on the possibilities for life extension, but there is also interest in techniques such as cosmetic surgery which ameliorate the effects of aging rather than delay or defeat it.[3]

    There are many scientists of this movement with different approaches. Two of the most popular proponents of the anti-aging movement include Ray Kurzweil, who says humanity can defeat aging through the advance of technology,[4] and Aubrey de Grey, who says that the human body is a very complicated machine and, thus, can be repaired indefinitely.[5]

  10. christoph says

    Is it just me, or does he look a lot like Jame Gumb? “Time to put the lotion on its skin…”

  11. says

    I know a celebrity who went on a liquid diet to lose weight and look what happened to her?
    That celebrity is none other than Karen Carpenter, who only drank herself to an early grave.
    Terri Schivo did the same thing, too.

  12. EvoMonkey says

    From the linked article: Soon after that, he founded Kernel, a neuroscience-focused technology company focused on developing a helmet that will, in his own words, “bring the brain online.”
    I really missed out with my Neuroscience degree. I will build him an intertubes connection helmet in my basement for the low low price of $5 million! Everyone of those 30 doctors, clinicians, and researchers are laughing all the way to the bank.

  13. Tethys says

    He doesn’t look like a real person because of the various photo filters which have rendered his face into a plastic mask. He forgot to do his hands, which look about 60.

    That refrigerator is sad. Peanut butter, ketchup, liquid aminos, and possibly some oats are his food?

    Can we talk about his sartorial choices? WTF is that? Is he moonlighting as a dancer in a gay bondage club? The nail polish is nice, but plastic faced man in weird clothing is creepy.

  14. Matt G says

    He can do whatever nonsense he wants, of course, but why does he feel the need to let us know about it? Could he just be a molecule of water in the tsunami of narcissism sweeping across the world?

  15. simplicio says

    He looks much better than I ever imagined for a 70-year-old man. He has the physical fitness of an 18-year old, but I want to see him when he reaches the physical fitness of a 12-year old.

    He gets all the minerals he needs, but i wonder how he does it now that Silver Sea Water is out of business. At least that eliminated all poisons like lead and arsenic while providing essential minerals like cadmium, cobalt, astatine, and plutonium, which are missing from so many mineral supplements.

    I wish I could afford something that would record all my nightly erections. I don’t even know where to find something like that. At least then I might be able to avoid loss of my precious bodily fluids.

    I feel like a pauper not being able to spend 2 million dollars a year to stay as young as he does, but at least I stay under 1943 calories a day on most days.

  16. snarkrates says

    Reminds me of the old joke:

    Patient: Doctor, how can I live to 100 years old?
    Doctor, after a long pause: Well, give up smoking. Give up drinking. Early to bed and early to rise. Get plenty of exercise. Stop chasing women. Minimize your driving…(about 5 minutes of rigid rules)
    Patient: And then will I live to be 100?
    Doctor: Probably not. But it’ll seem that way.

    Or as my dad said: All these things you do for your health…they just add years on the wrong side of your life.

  17. whywhywhy says

    Weird, I read a study a few years ago that stated the healthiest weight for longevity was about 5-10 lbs on the heavyside. This creates a cushion in case the person gets cancer or other major disease and gives them a chance to pull through. And I remember this study since I am about 10ish lbs too heavy myself (probably more but weight gets rounded down). If that ain’t science then I don’t want to be right.

  18. divineconspiracy667 says

    That’s basically what I was thinking. Dude seems to be spending a LOT of resources to “de-agify” himself.
    Basically, he’s spending all his current spare time (and a lot of money) trying to recapture the health of his youth, instead of just enjoying his current life.
    Nothing wrong with trying to improve your health and try to extend your life that way, but he doesn’t seem like he’s actually enjoying himself.
    I mean, if he likes exercising and slathering himself in creams and oils, eating boring foods, choking down a small bucket of pills and spending hours documenting minute body changes every day, great. Go nuts. But he’s certainly not convincing me that he’s living a better life than mine, a life filled with video games and beer with a side of male pattern balding, greying hair, and a lot of spare time to have fun instead of all those unappealing (to me) things he’s spending his time on.

  19. outis says

    Oh look another one… a candidate for an early death I mean. Live by imaginary rules, reality will kill ya even faster than it normally does. Ah well, who cares – I certainly don’t.
    @7: I also wondered about that. °F probably, running a full 3°C lower for a long time has a very good chance of you meeting the reaper.
    @ 20: it’s not a for-real reference being from a novel, but in Kingsley Amis’ “Jake’s Thing” (1978) a “nocturnal mensurator” for just that purpose has a part in the narrative. Mind you, it’s a comic novel so the author might just have been fibbing about that.

  20. bargearse says

    I don’t whether it’s a filter or whatever creams/procedures he’s undergoing but that face is firmly in the uncanny valley for me. He looks, not quite right.

  21. wzrd1 says

    I looked at the photo and my first thought was, “Good Lord, someone emulating the wardrobe from Space 1999”.
    The rest, well, just another sans a clue from Silicon Valley, where obviously radical lobotomies are mandatory.

    My fridge looks far better as well, at least real food is inside of it. No insane dietary nonsense, just a pork chop that I marinated with blood orange flavored ginger beer overnight, some collard greens, finished off some mac and cheese and mashed potatoes for dinner, followed by a quarter mile walk to the store and back, cup of coffee and smoke after dinner.

    When was the last time a good idea came out of Silicon Valley, anyway? It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten the last time that lightning struck!

  22. Alan G. Humphrey says

    The composition of that photo emphasizes what large hands he has. Why would a man do that?

    As for his ‘plan’, he seems to be suffering from an authoritarian’s view of how the universe works, he will bend it to his will.

  23. gijoel says

    J.I Rodale bragged that he’d live to 100, on the Dick Cavett show thanks to his diet and supplemental pills he took. He promptly died of a heart attack a few minutes later. That’s what this idiot in the camo Logan’s Run costume looks like.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 11
    These days, I have cut down on pizzas to only once every other day. I consider this an acceptable sacrifice.

  25. birgerjohansson says

    Replicants only have a five-year lifespan, so this artificial dude does not have long left.

  26. birgerjohansson says

    A smart billionaire would invest into research on the genomes of whales and rockfish- some of them have a life span of two centuries as they have no enemies as adults, giving evolution a reason for delaying ageing.

  27. drew says

    Is there a Silicon Valley philosophy that isn’t just ego and vanity and selfishness?

    Why? Will VCs pay for something else?

  28. silvrhalide says

    “this is a man who has a device that tracks his nightly erections”
    What unhappy woman or women are on the receiving end of this unwanted status report?

    I have no problem believing that he hasn’t psychologically aged a day past 18.

    That Brad Dourif Photoshop filter has gone horribly wrong.

    @30 Honestly, that was my first reaction too.

  29. StevoR says

    @31. birgerjohansson :

    A smart billionaire would invest into research on the genomes of whales and rockfish- some of them have a life span of two centuries as they have no enemies as adults, giving evolution a reason for delaying ageing.

    Or Greenland Sharks :

    A 2016 study of Greenland shark eye tissue, published in the journal Science(opens in new tab), estimated that these sharks can have a maximum life span of at least 272 years. The biggest shark in that study was estimated to be about 392 years old, and the researchers suggested that the sharks could have been up to 512 years old, Live Science previously reported. The age estimates came with a degree of uncertainty, but even the lowest estimate of 272 years still makes these sharks the longest-living vertebrates on Earth.

    Source :

    Plus Ocean Quahog Clams (Arctica islandica), Freshwater Pearl Mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) and other species some of which are also listed there. They tend to be very slow growing, have slow metabolisms and are often endangered in part as a result of these things.

    One could say the shark metaphor applies aptly to the likes of this Bryan Johnson dude & his ilk here but actually it’d be insulting to the cartilaginous fish here.

  30. says

    Ray Kurzweil was supposedly eating dozens of pills a day so he could see the Singularity and be uploaded. Of course he assumes that uploaded people will live immortal lives of fun, instead of living in a simulation of working 60 hour weeks as a junior file clerk.