Inspiration for modern futurists

File photo.
File photo.

Jason Silva is a rock star. Kind of. He’s an optimist to be sure.

Jason Silva calls himself a “performance philosopher.” After earning degrees in both philosophy and film at the University of Miami, Silva naturally began combining the two. His interests first manifested themselves through a television show he hosted and wrote for called Current TV. More recently though, Silva has been working on documentaries and film shorts that focus on the hopeful future of technology and human biology.

These short films, usually two to four minutes long, focus on futurist perspectives. The screen focuses on Silva as he talks with manic energy. Images flicker by in rapid succession, an atmosphere of anticipation surged forward by music of the likes of the score for “Requiem for a Dream.” It’s like TED Talk on cocaine, and it’s utterly fascinating.

Silva talks about our minds changing physically and biologically to the sensations of awe. He talks about the matter of the universe being subject the will of the human mind, and the topography of New York City being shaped by human culture and ideas instead of geographic events. He talks about Singularity, the event of man-made, greater-than-human intelligence. He talks about transcending biological limitations and the immortality that follows.

Silva uses the word ecstasy repeatedly. He pushes it through his vocabulary and, more importantly, through his actions. The future that he talks is invigorating for him and his general audience. You can almost see him shake with excitement. Tripping eloquently over his words, Silva quotes Freeman Dyson saying, “To me the most astounding fact in the universe is the power of mind which drives my fingers as I write these words. Somehow, by natural processes still totally mysterious, a million butterfly brains working together in a human skull have the power to dream, to calculate, to see and to hear, to speak and to listen, to translate thoughts and feelings into marks on paper which other brains can interpret. Mind, through the long course of biological evolution, has established itself as a moving force in our little corner of the universe. Here on this small planet, mind has infiltrated matter and has taken control. It appears to me that the tendency of mind to infiltrate and control matter is a law of nature.”

And this is where his optimism derails my eagerness to accept all his thoughts.

Despite his wonderful articulation and sensational ideas for the future of humanity, there comes a point where you need to recognize that Silva is not the first to espouse this kind of content. The originality, however, is not the problem. The problem is that it can be inferred that his ideas are of the same lot as those that have failed before him. Springing up from the likes of architect Buckminster Fuller, Silva fits comfortably in line with past futurists. In his own way, he eagerly embraces what is ahead. He assumes that we can change the future completely to mold of our minds, even if he is ignoring splintering ideologies and the fickle nature that is being human.

Despite what I can find deliberately naive in his outlook, Silva is surprisingly refreshing.

Jason Silva works with a group of thinkers and printmakers called the Imagination Foundation whose goal, in short, is “to imagine the best possible future, and then create it.” And while this can be nauseously optimistic and naive, it is hard to not respect someone who is trying to make the world a better place. It’s hard to not like Jason Silva.

About the Author

Maxwell Howard

Maxwell Howard is the Chimes Features Editor for the 2012-13 school year.

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