Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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.