Jason Silva is an interesting cat. Before I mention his new doc, allow me to paint his background. At the age of 22, the graduate from University of Miami worked with his friend Max Lugavere to create an experimental film called Textures of Selfhood about spirituality and hedonism.
It was an experimental project that had them dubbed them the “Party Philosophers”. Years later, both guys launched, founded, and hosted a new concept for television called Current TV (a cable network channel with online roots) started by former US Vice President Al Gore. It was “TV by the people, for the people”, a revolutionary concept in user generated television. The channel has endless educational and entertaining mini-docs while growing at a ferocious rate on an international platform thanks to it’s online base.
Today, Silva, at the ripe age of 28 years old, has never let go of his original passions — film and philosophy (his college major at UM). His new project is a documentary entitled Turning into Gods. The film is about science, technical progress, our minds, and the endless possibilities that ensue. Essentially, the film challenges the space where art and science meet — mankind’s journey to “play jazz with the universe”.
I met Jason at a swanky event in a New York City home over some watermelon tequilas. Within a few minutes, we dove into the rabbit hole of speculation regarding the future of science, biotechnology, its responsibilities, and the boundaries of the human mind. I have to say, he is one contagious strong spirit with an inexhaustible ability to dream. The following is the trailer for his exploration into the topic, meeting with philosophers, writers, leaders, and futurists… and digging into some old school thinkers like Timothy Leary.
There is no release date for the doc yet. It is still in creation mode, and he hopes to complete it as soon as he can rip away from all his other endeavors. This is just a peek at his inner workings. I stopped to ask him a few questions about the new passion project.
Jauretsi: Can you give us a brief description of your new documentary Turning into Gods, and how you decided to give birth to this project?
I was inspired by Stewart Brand’s prophetic line: “we are as gods and might as well get good at it”. It implies we must get over our cosmic inferiority complex and take responsibility for our prowess and technical ingenuity. We are part of evolution and our technology is an extension of us: it is simply life unfolding in more complex ways, with increasing order and organization. It is exotropy, the opposite of entropy. Ultimately this emergent complexity and sublime unfolding makes Marshall McLuhan’s line ring even truer: “First we build the tools, then they build us”. My film will celebrate this. It is an anthem to techno-optimism. A heady, philosophical documentary.
Your project revisits the Romantic age (late 1700′s) when science and art were intertwined in a dance. What are your thoughts on how the 2 modes of thinking became divorced around early 1900′s? Do you think the industrial revolution and the onslaught of inventions had something to do with the fact science became cold and calculated devoid poetic expression?
There’s a book out now called The Age of Wonder that celebrates this Romantic period of science where the artists were scientists and the scientists knew about art. This marriage evokes that Carl Saganesque AWE that takes place when our technical and scientific skill-sets meet our ability to philosophically reflect. I’m not sure why these worlds became disjointed, but I am convinced they are coming together again.
Are we entering a new age of enlightenment where one form of thought will now inform the other? Do you find this a growing trend among the scientific community today? Why?
John Brockman from the EDGE Foundation talks about The New Age of Wonder… he hosted a special dinner at TED this year where Freeman Dyson talked about “a new generation of artists writing genomes the way Blake and Byron wrote verses”… Whereas the old age of wonder centered on chemistry and physics… this new one will revolve around computers and biology. Synthetic life, biotechology and more will lead the way.
Buckminster Fuller is a favorite of mine, and one of the few inventors with the awesome epitaph, “Futurist” — a term you don’t hear much these days. He pictured science improving communities, and had an early sense of environmentalism — viewing the world as a global village — almost 100 years before the internet. Who do you think are the modern day “futurists”… todays minds with tremendous forecasting abilities?
Ray Kurzweil is at the forefront of futurism… The folks at Singularity University. The folks at SpaceCollective.org … The imaginary Foundation… the folks at Next Nature… Barry Ptolemy who directed Transcendent Man speaks to many futurists and thinkers. I love Buckminster Fuller too!
Since you like to observe and follow the art scene sprinkled with science, can you tell us the last art exhibit using these themes that that blew you away?
I recently read about the new play Icarus at the Edge of Time with a score by Philip Glass… unfortunately I missed it, but it really sounded wonderful… Also an installation called OUTERBOROS, in 3D and exploring the history of the cosmos… sounded heady and mindblowing.
Do you remember your earliest memories of attraction to science as a child? Something random that blew away your tiny little mind?
My mind is blown every time I am reminded of how much we can accomplish. Our scope and reach is marvelous. Our art, science, engineering. I want to drink it daily. The problem is when we get busy with trivial things and we turn into cogs.
What’s next on your plate? What is the new passion project you are incubating?
Working on a new Science-based show… will be really heady and intellectual… also to carve out some time to finish Turning Into Gods… will keep u posted!
Keep up with Jason on Twitter: @jason_silva