It’s amazing what Facebook does by way of “shortcutting” the process of meeting people. Just the other day I added an interesting fellow named Jason Silva, and he returned the favor. Imagine my surprise when adding a friendly face revealed the star of the Emmy Award winning Current TV. You gotta love Facebook, and I think you will like Jason Silva if you put on your thinking cap.
Jason granted Everything PR News an interview to talk about his somewhat controversial (and imminently interesting) new documentary “Turning Into Gods.” If the title itself does not do it for you, Jason is the equivalent of the early 21st Century emissary of something we can call “technology-optimism“, or the idea that humankind may be in for an historical paradigm shift – technical immortality perhaps. Here is the Q & A from our discussion.
Jason Silva Interview
Everything PR – I was reading an article Steve Rosenbaum, and old acquaintance at Magnify, did on the HuffPost about “The Immortalists,” and your journey into the realm of, shall we say – cheating death. Steve sort of suggests your interest in aging and death is some sort of morbid curiosity. This is not my sense however; I think that your interest in this “infinite” subject is actually an extension of your interests reflected in Al Gore’s “Current TV.” Is this more accurate? Can you elaborate?
Jason – I’m not comfortable with letting go of everything and everyone I love… at the heart of my commitment to embracing the role of technology in extending our boundaries is my belief that the fact that we infuse our lives with meaning actually MATTERS. Therefore, if we’ve decided that our lives have meaning and they matter, then our impermanence makes everything beautiful dissolve into irony. This is simply unacceptable.
I also think if there’s any kind of ‘destiny’ at play in the universe, it has to do with increasing complexity and organization, and we need to participate in that process by evolving, redefining, expanding ourselves, our empathy, our lifespans… the whole thing. We need to make entropy our bitch.
EPR – You recently told Aaron Saenz, of Singularity Hub, your real agenda for the making of “Turning Into Gods, “ or maybe more accurately, for your quest into this realm of technology versus death. I believe you intent to, as you said; “awaken humanity’s hope and optimism for a future that will be shaped by ever accelerating technologies.” As you call it, “appealing to the child in all of us that says, WOW!
While I agree totally with your approach, one question haunts me. “How can mankind, science, sufficiently explore this techno-immortality while impeded by the world’s other weighty problems – war, famine, corporate malfeasance, political skulduggery, eco-disaster?
Jason Silva – “Techno immortality” will accompany millions of other simultaneous breakthroughs happening before and after, exponentially. I am convinced exponentially growing technology can be leveraged to solve all the world’s problems. Nanotech, biotech, these things will compound on each other. Stewart Brand writes about us getting good and being gods.. because that’s kind of what we are.
EPR – Jason, anyone would say your thinking is on the cutting edge of, for lack of a better term – a paradigm shift where science and art (beauty etc) intersect. The knowledge quest of mankind, our next quantum leap forward, may well be into the realm you suggest. But, how do we inject enthusiasm into a collective conscious so virtually distraught and divergent in the 21st Century?
Jason Silva – It’s all about package design. We need to inspire people. People respond to emotional stimulation – we create positive associations when messages and information are delivered in ways that take our breath away. This is why movies are so profoundly magical – good films are triumphs of package design. The TED conference is a triumph of package design. I think when science and art become one and the same we can achieve transcendent effects. The recent Hubble IMAX 3D film is a prime example. Some people say love is friendship set to music. Ideas and concepts come alive when they are edited beautifully. Everything deserves a soundtrack.
EPR – Let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment Jason, please forgive the implication, you will understand I know the reason for this mindset. I have watched as much of the video as I could find out there and one thing strikes me, perhaps many people. Interviewing great minds, let’s call these “the sub-culture” of celebrity thinkers, is not in my view exactly credible.
A bunch of Cali brainiacs with too much money and time on their hands, grinding peyote buttons into salad dressings, and exploring the infinite is only half the story – not the most credible without Earth bound inquiry. Many people view things like this – completely outside their reality. The question is; “Are you exploring the more human side of this – the intellectual on the streets, so to speak? Ghetto philosophers perhaps?
Jason Silva – I think in all of my advocacy for techno-optimism, be it Huffington Post articles, my work on Current, or my upcoming doc project, Turning Into Gods, I am trying to appeal to people in a few ways- I want to titillate people into conceiving of a future that just might be, by presenting what is currently happening in a supremely awesome way. I think the fact that we live in a world where genomes have been CREATED on a computer is something worth having quite a few drinks celebrating!
EPR – The great thinker, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell once described the “unseen reality” you seem to be trying to expose, or perhaps the difficulty therein in this way: Bill Moyers asked Campbell; “And poetry gets to the unseen reality?” (talking about the power of myth) Campbell responded;
“That which is beyond even the concept of reality, that which transcends all thought. The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery which you are.”
There could be an argument here Jason, that technology has not really solved so much for humanity. Maybe the cosmos balances these technological strides with what seems like chaotic antigens – happenings that act in opposite – basically creating “cures” which end up being pathogens in themselves. Have you considered this sort of “fourth dimension”, a myth of technology so to speak?
Jason Silva – I think technological evolution should carry the same powerful mythological elements we add to anything we consider meaningful and important. The website SpaceCollective.org is a great experiment in this vein. I recommend the site to anyone looking for a little inspiration and grand mythological narrative associate with technology, techno-utopianism and the like. Its quite wonderful.
EPR – Is your inquiry, all these scientists, and celebrities, even the peyote consumers (sorry), simply a quest for God? This is my simplified feeling.
Jason Silva – Joseph Campbell describes God as “that which is beyond our intellectual grasp”… so really what he is saying is that anything we don’t understand yet, we call god. So certainly, if I am interested in human understanding, progress and gaining a mastery over the process of life, (so we can improve it and augment it), then yes I am searching for this. I’m also definitely a fan of transcendent experiences – the mental equivalent of a physical orgasm.. and I’m chasing this feeling, and want mankind to reverse engineer it and then improve it!
EPR – Jason, thank you so much for talking with us, but more importantly for engaging our minds, our “selves” in what is perhaps the ultimate inquiry.
Jason Silva – My pleasure, and thank you.
Whether you agree or disagree with Jason Silva, his legion of big brained gurus, or the idea of science helping man transcend the eternal – or not – it is necessary to acknowledge not only the intellect behind such ideas, but especially Silva’s enthusiasm. Let’s just call this another form of hope for now. Of course, in all likelihood, Silva’s quest will lead to a wholly divergent set of answers to the questions he poses – the “reality” he and other predict – but it is these types of queries which lead to answers.
It is abundantly clear, for me at least, what the great purpose here on Earth is. Consult your religious doctrine, the metaphysical, voodoo, whatever road your inner self has led you down – improvement, striving, evolving is the core principle of existence. Just how far have we come? Is God Almighty liking the classroom’s achievements? Only the unseen, the omnipotent excellence, the point in time and space “knowing” of such things can say.
We have only achieved so far, a minuscule pin point in the universe the potential imbued within us, this is certain. The inquiry, Jason’s quest, is certainly as old as humankind itself. I reflect on the uttering of King Solomon each time the “godlike” nature of humanity comes around.
“And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). “All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?”
But, for Jason Silva, like the Jason of the Argonauts, at the very least teaches the world anew what the fruits of hope and intellectual curiosity conceivably unveil. So many people think God and Scientology (or raw science) are mutually exclusive. This is wrong. Is there only one way? Does religious dogma exclude all other possibility? This is highly unlikely for spiritualists as well as purely scientific evangelists.
Imagining the infinite, digging deep within one’s own soul (or genome), a much more grand “almighty” is clearly visible. One who probably smiles on such endeavors. This brings to mind another quote, this time from a movie. In Troy, Brad Pitt (as Achilles) utters the antithesis of Silva’s immortality thesis:
“I’ll tell you a secret, something they don’t teach you in your temple. The gods envy us. They envy us because we are mortal. Because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful, because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now, and we will never be here again.”
I leave you with a trailer from Jason Silva’s fascinating documentary “Turning Into Gods,” you will be enthralled.