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  • Good afternoon everyone, and welcome

  • to our session of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas,

  • We are the Gods, Now.

  • I'm Ann Mossop from the Sydney Opera House.

  • I'm one of the curators of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas,

  • and it's a great pleasure to welcome you here this afternoon

  • to hear from Jason Silva.

  • When we were planning the Festival,

  • we really wanted to talk about the future and the impact

  • of technology on the future, and because of our experience

  • trying to talk about scientific topics, pessimistic topics,

  • difficult topics, we decided we really

  • needed to find somebody who could talk

  • about the future of technology in a way that

  • was optimistic and exciting and that

  • was going to get people to think about these kind of very

  • complicated and sometimes difficult issues

  • with a positive undertone to what they were saying.

  • And we were absolutely so excited

  • when we came across the work of Jason Silva,

  • and a few weeks after we talked to Jason

  • and started to arrange for him to come,

  • we found out that he was speaking at TED.

  • And I was fortunate enough to see

  • him speak there, introducing a video

  • he had made for that conference, and I thought, yes,

  • this is something that's going to be really wonderful to see

  • here in the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

  • Jason is someone who's hard to categorize.

  • He's not someone where I can say,

  • yes, he's the author of XYZ, and he's a professor

  • here and there.

  • Jason is a philosopher, a filmmaker, a visionary,

  • I think.

  • Someone who, above all, is a really extraordinary

  • communicator about science, about complexity, and about

  • the future.

  • So I'm delighted that he's here to talk to us this afternoon.

  • Please make sure that your phone are on silent.

  • Tweet to hashtag #fodi, which has

  • been hacked because so many of you

  • are getting so involved in the conversation

  • that it became a magnet to a lot of people trying

  • to get you to buy something else.

  • But we're fixing that, and Twitter is still

  • going through, so don't hold back.

  • Jason is going to talk to us for about half an hour, 30 minutes,

  • 40 minutes, and then there'll be plenty

  • of time for questions and discussion from you

  • because I think this is something where you will

  • get a lot of provocative ideas.

  • So the opportunity to have a conversation with Jason today

  • is going to be one of the great pleasures of this session.

  • So please join me in welcoming to Jason Silva.

  • Wow.

  • Hi, everybody.

  • How you guys doing?

  • Hope you guys are doing great.

  • We are the gods, now.

  • What a topic.

  • Huh?

  • And I suppose, for me, the big inspiration behind this

  • came after I read Ernest Becker's book, Pulitzer

  • Prize winning book, the Denial of Death, 1974.

  • Pop culture reference for that books,

  • it's the book that Woody Allen gives Annie Hall in the movie

  • Annie Hall, and he says, look, you

  • need to read this so you can understand

  • where I'm coming from.

  • And basically the Denial of Death

  • said that the human condition is characterized,

  • characterized uniquely, by our awareness of our mortality.

  • In other words, we're the only species

  • that is aware that we are mortal beings,

  • and this causes a tremendous amount of anxiety.

  • We would go mad if we hadn't come up

  • with solutions to the death problem.

  • And throughout history, Ernest Becker

  • identifies three main solutions to the problem of death.

  • The first one was the religious solution

  • to the problem of death.

  • You create a narrative in which your soul will live forever

  • in the kingdom of God, and it gets rid of the death issue

  • because everything will be taken care of in the end.

  • Now, as technology has increasingly-- science

  • and technology increasingly made religion sort of more difficult

  • to believe, we've had to come up with other solutions

  • to the death problem.

  • The second main solution to the problem of death

  • that Ernest Becker identifies is the romantic solution.

  • You turn your lovers into deities.

  • She's like the wind.

  • She's my salvation.

  • It's the lyric to every pop song.

  • She is the sun.

  • But of course, no relationship can ultimately

  • bear the burden of Godhood.

  • Eventually, your gods reveal their clay feet,

  • and all of a sudden, we can't be saved by our lovers

  • and the anxiety about our mortal coil kicks in again.

  • Ernest Becker says we are gods with anuses.

  • We have this capacity to ponder the infinite.

  • We're seemingly capable of anything.

  • We can mainline the whole of time

  • through the optic nerve with our astronomy and with our space

  • telescopes, and yet we're housed in these heart-pumping,

  • breath-gasping, decaying bodies.

  • So to be godly, yet creaturely, is just impossibly cruel.

  • The last solution to the problem of death

  • that Ernest Becker identifies, he calls the creative solution,

  • and I think this is, perhaps, the most interesting one

  • for a variety of reasons.

  • Of course, symbolically, to create a solution

  • allows us to create great works of art,

  • to create work that will outlive us

  • and that will outlast us to leave

  • a sort of symbolic immortality and legacy of that sort.

  • But also the creative solution to the problem of death,

  • I think, is the engineering solution.

  • It's the way through which we remake the world.

  • It's the way in which we transcend our limitations using

  • science and technology, and this gets me really excited

  • because this is, ultimately, how I see technology.

  • Technology is a scaffolding.

  • Andy Clark, the cognitive philosopher,

  • says technology is our second skin.

  • Terrence McKenna says it's the real skin of our species.

  • Through technology, we transcend the limitations

  • of thought, reach, and vision.

  • We extend ourselves.

  • We transcend time, space, and distance.

  • Technology is our extended phenotype, as Dawkins says.

  • It's really what we are.

  • Our skyscrapers, our jet engines, that's us.

  • Just like the termite colony is temperature controlled,

  • and it's a part of the termite species, so to technology

  • is a part of who we are.

  • Now, as Ann said, I'm a filmmaker,

  • and my background is I worked in television.

  • I worked for Al Gore's TV network for a number of years,

  • and I fell in love with the power of short form filmmaking.

  • I felt that with short form, you could create content

  • that could spread, that could be shared

  • in the age of social media.

  • And when I left current TV, I decided

  • to create a series of short films, microdocumentaries,

  • that look at the co-evolution of humans and technology

  • because I feel so in love with this idea of technology

  • as a means to transcend our boundaries that I felt

  • like this was a narrative that needed to be put out there

  • in the world because we live in this world of doom and gloom.

  • We live in a media environment where, if it bleeds, it leads,

  • and there's a reason for that.

  • My friend Peter Diamandis, founder

  • of the XPRIZE at Singularity University,

  • wrote a book called Abundance, Why the Future will

  • be Much Better Than You Think.

  • And in the book, it talks about how

  • we have these overactive amygdalas that we've inherited

  • from a time where we used to live in the savannas of Africa,

  • and it was biologically advantageous for us to be

  • really nervous all the time and always

  • looking for danger because it kept

  • us alive against the tiger, so that the tiger wouldn't eat us.

  • And we've inherited that, but now

  • we live in a world that is increasingly

  • safer, increasingly less violent.

  • I don't know if you guys know the work of Steven Pinker, who

  • says that the chances of a man dying

  • at the hands of another man today

  • are the lowest they've ever been,

  • or the work of Matt Ridley, who actually shows

  • the measurable progress that we've made using science

  • and technology and how the world has actually never been better,

  • or the work of Hans Rosling, who has the website

  • gapminder.org that went viral a couple years ago because it

  • showed how every nation in the world,

  • by every measurable indicator, has been rising.

  • Quality of life has been rising over the last 200 years,

  • but we don't notice this because we

  • have these overactive amygdalas that are just

  • looking for danger, and our increasingly wired world

  • is more than happy to showcase all the danger,

  • even though it's less than there's ever been before.

  • Anyway, promise to go slow.

  • So I decided that there was room,

  • there was room to start a new conversation about how

  • we see ourselves and how we see technology,

  • and I felt that online video had become ubiquitous enough

  • that we could actually create content that

  • was short form, that was infectious,

  • and that people could then spread.

  • And so I started to do this, and I

  • created a project, a series of shorts.

  • I called them Shots of Philosophical Espresso,

  • and the point of the content is to pull you out

  • of context in such a dramatic manner

  • in order to force you to gawk in amazement

  • at the ubiquitous everyday wonders

  • that we seem to be culturally disposed to ignore.

  • OK, so what I'd like to do today is actually

  • want to walk you through a series of these short films

  • which will, hopefully, convince you

  • that we are on our way to becoming gods.

  • The first film I want to show you is actually

  • on ode to the power of ideas, and let's play it,

  • and then we'll talk a little bit about the themes.

  • You know, I love this idea of radical openess,

  • the free exchange of information,

  • the free flow of ideas, creating spaces in which ideas

  • can has sex as Matt Ridley talks about.

  • And this is huge because it turns out that ideas are just

  • as real as the neurons they inhabit,

  • as James Gleick tell us.

  • A new kingdom rises above the biosphere.

  • Denizens of this kingdom are ideas

  • because ideas have retained some of the properties of organisms,

  • it turns out.

  • They leap from brain to brain.

  • They compete for the limited resources of our attention.

  • They have infectivity.

  • They have spreading power.

  • They are what Richard Dawkins calls the new replicators, born

  • from the primordial soup of human culture.

  • Their vector of transmission is language

  • and electronic communication.

  • And though ideas are not made of nucleic acid,

  • they have achieved more evolutionary change

  • and at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.

  • You know, Ray Kurzweil says our ability

  • to create virtual models in our heads

  • combined with our modest looking thumbs was sufficient to usher

  • in a secondary force of evolution called technology,

  • and it will continue until the entire universe is

  • at our fingertips.

  • This is unbelievable stuff.

  • It speaks to the telescopic nature of evolutionary change,

  • more change in the last 100 years

  • than in the last billion years.

  • Terrance McKenna actually wrote, "From the moment

  • that human beings invented language,

  • biological evolution essentially ceased,

  • and evolution became a cultural epigenetic phenomenon."

  • Now, we take in matter of low organization,

  • we put it through our mental filters,

  • and we extrude it in the form of space shuttles and iPhones.

  • The Imaginary Foundation tells us

  • that what imagination does is it allows

  • us to conceive of delightful future possibilities,

  • pick the most amazing one, and pull the present over

  • to meet it.

  • Imagine how impoverished this world

  • would have been if we hadn't invented

  • the technology of the oil painting in time for Van Gogh,

  • or the technology of the musical instrument in time

  • for Beethoven and Mozart to unfurl through it.