Jason Silva (@JasonSilva) would have been called a “performance philosopher” by counterculture icon Timothy Leary. Among many things, he’s a futurist, filmmaker, creator of short video series Shots of Awe, and host of the National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games and Origins: The Journey of Humankind.
What We Discuss with Jason Silva:
- How our concepts of self are formed — often through the eyes of others — and how they affect our behavior.
- How top performers excel by shutting down the editorial parts of the human brain coined by Buddhists as the monkey mind.
- Why “unscripted” isn’t the same as “unprepared,” and how videos can be edited to elicit altered states of consciousness.
- How good directors help performers get out of their heads — while bad directors do just the opposite.
- How is day-to-day reality edited by context, similar to the Kuleshov effect demonstrated by Alfred Hitchcock?
- And much more!
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Taking a cue from Timothy Leary’s statement that one doesn’t teach philosophy in the information age, but performs it, our guest Jason Silva has been making short films since the early ’90s in his native Venezuela. This led to a double-major in film and philosophy and the creation of film short series Shots of Awe.
Jason was the host of the National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games and Origins: The Journey of Humankind. Here, he joins us to talk about how our perception of the way others see us shapes our behavior, how top performers achieve greatness by shutting down parts of the brain, tricks a filmmaker uses to alter audience consciousness, why nature walks are good for contemplative introspection, why bland architecture is bad for us, and lots more.
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about the looking glass self, why jazz musicians found the partaking of a little reefer madness conducive to reaching the flow state, why “unscripted” doesn’t mean “unprepared,” how videos are edited to elicit altered states of consciousness, how good directors help performers get out of their heads — while bad directors do just the opposite, how day-to-day reality is edited by context, why some people under the influence of a certain substance can experience peace while others have a bad trip, the psychological toll of terrible architecture, human cultural evolution, and more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Missed the show we did with Annie Duke — World Series poker champion and author of Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts? Catch up by listening to episode 40: Annie Duke | How to Make Decisions Like a Poker Champ!
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THANKS, JASON SILVA!
If you enjoyed this session with Jason Silva, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Shots of Awe | Jason Silva
- Origins: The Journey of Humankind | National Geographic Channel
- Jason Silva | Website
- Jason Silva | Facebook
- Jason Silva | Instagram
- Jason Silva | Twitter
- Brain Games | National Geographic Channel
- Steven Kotler | Website
- Peter Diamandis | Website
- Kevin Kelly | Website
- Max Lugavere | Prevent Dementia and Eat Like a Genius | Jordan Harbinger
- Others in Mind: Social Origins of Self-Consciousness by Philippe Rochat
- Human Nature and the Social Order by Charles Horton Cooley
- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
- Info-Psychology: A Manual for the Use of the Human Nervous System According to the Instructions of the Manufacturers, and a Navigational Guide for Piloting the Evolution of the Human Individual by Timothy Leary
- What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff
- Flow Genome Project
- The Neuroanatomy of Freestyle Rap by Lindsay Abrams, The Atlantic
- Jamie Wheal: Hacking the GENOME of Flow | TEDxVeniceBeach
- Black Swan | Prime Video
- Edge Foundation
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) by Joseph Campbell
- The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
- What Is the Kuleshov Effect? | Lights Film School
- Arrival: A Response To Bad Movies | Evan Puschak
- On Drugs by David Lenson
- The Extended Mind by Andy Clark and David Chalmers
- Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence by Andy Clark
- The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
Transcript for Jason Silva | Origins of a Performance Philosopher (Episode 451)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Jason Silva: Our brains are media. Think of them as media, that store patterns, like a hard drive. And that pattern mirrors the world. It models the external world. Now, if you make a model of the external world, eventually you have to realize that that model of the world includes the observer within that world. He calls it an inevitable vortex of self-mirroring. That eventually a real causal mind emerges. It is like when you plug a video camera to the TV screen and then face the camera at the TV, it creates an engulfing infinity. That's consciousness.
[00:00:42] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we code the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game — spies and psychologists, astronauts, and entrepreneurs, even the occasional mafia enforcer, cult member, rocket scientist. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:11] Today, we're talking with my friend, Jason Silva. He's kind of a performance philosopher, I guess you could say. Host of the Emmy-nominated show Brain Games on National Geographic and the show Origins, which you might already be watching. That's also on National Geographic. Super passionate guy on his YouTube videos, authentic, interesting. One of those guys that just seems like he's on another level. I'll let you fill in the blanks on that one. Today, we'll discuss how our concepts of ourselves are formed and how that affects our behavior in the world. We'll also discuss his addiction to cognitive ecstasy and connecting the dots on ideas and why this is both important for us and for him. It's a little abstract, but if you liked our episodes with Steven Kotler and Stealing Fire, you'd like this. It's a little bit more abstract philosophical, potentially, you can call it episodes. You'll dig this episode here with Jason Silva.
[00:01:58] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all of these authors, thinkers, and celebrities every single week, it is because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us. You'll be in smart company. Now, here's Jason Silva.
[00:02:21] We have mutual friends, Steven Kotler, Sam Harris.
[00:02:24] Jason Silva: Yes, Stephen Kotler introduced us.
[00:02:25] Jordan Harbinger: That's right. Yeah. That's right.
[00:02:26] Jason Silva: Steven Kotler introduced us. He was raving about you.
[00:02:29] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, good.
[00:02:29] Jason Silva: Peter Diamandis. I know from XPRIZE and through Ray Kurzweil. I'm a big fan of his and am friends with him. I love his passion. So Peter, Steven, Max from Current, who else?
[00:02:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that—
[00:02:40] Jason Silva: And Jon Levy.
[00:02:41] Jordan Harbinger: And Jon Levy.
[00:02:41] Jason Silva: I have been to some of those events,
[00:02:43] Jordan Harbinger: So good.
[00:02:43] Jason Silva: What a small world.
[00:02:45] Jordan Harbinger: Well, a lot of people have been emailing, "Why don't you have Jason Silva on your show? Why didn't you have Jason Silva on your show?"
[00:02:49] Jason Silva: And you were like, "Who's that douche?"
[00:02:50] Jordan Harbinger: I was like, is that the guy from Brain Games? Because I don't have a TV, so I'll pass.
[00:02:53] Jason Silva: Right, yeah.
[00:02:54] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny because I saw that show once and I thought, "This is the coolest show ever."
[00:02:57] Jason Silva: Oh, thanks.
[00:02:57] Jordan Harbinger: I was like in an airport lounge.
[00:02:58]Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:02:58] Jordan Harbinger: But I didn't have TV for 15 years because I was a cord-cutter in the '90s basically.
[00:03:03] Jason Silva: Yeah, I don't watch a lot of TV either.
[00:03:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:05] Jason Silva: It was on Netflix for a while, so that was nice.
[00:03:07] Jordan Harbinger: I did see it on Netflix.
[00:03:07] Jason Silva: A lot of people rediscovered it on Netflix.
[00:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: Is it gone now though?
[00:03:10] Jason Silva: I think it's back on Netflix actually.
[00:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: I can always steal it. Like most people my age, get their media—
[00:03:15] Jason Silva: Yes, got it.
[00:03:15] Jordan Harbinger: —we steal it. Get it for free.
[00:03:16] Jason Silva: Got it.
[00:03:16] Jordan Harbinger: I won't do that with your new show though—
[00:03:17] Jason Silva: Okay.
[00:03:17] Jordan Harbinger: —because that would be bad news.
[00:03:19] Jason Silva: I appreciate that, yes.
[00:03:20] Jordan Harbinger: We did get cable for certain educational reasons.
[00:03:22] Jason Silva: Great.
[00:03:23] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, do you ever watch your own stuff? Like, do you watch the final production of your Nat Geo, or are you kind of like, "Okay, I'm so done with this. I don't want to deal with it."
[00:03:31] Jason Silva: I did watch the entire finished premiere episode on television for the first time.
[00:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. That's fair.
[00:03:40] Jason Silva: For the premiere of origins. And I had a little party going on in my hotel room.
[00:03:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:45] Jason Silva: And it was surreal because we worked really hard on it. I think the final product was lovely, yeah.
[00:03:51] Jordan Harbinger: For me, it's hard for me to listen to finished products, but it's also kind of required to get the full view. You want to sort of view it through the eyes of—
[00:03:59] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:03:59] Jordan Harbinger: —the viewer and not just the way that you think it went.
[00:04:02] Jason Silva: That's true. That's true. I also do a lot of short-form content.
[00:04:05] Jordan Harbinger: I know, yeah.
[00:04:05] Jason Silva: So we do the Shots of Awe videos and those — because I'm simultaneously sort of the narrator, but also the director and the creative and overseeing the music and all of the editing — with those I really love to watch the final product because I have such a sense of control and authorship—
[00:04:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right sure.
[00:04:22] Jason Silva: —over it, but it's like my baby from frame to frame, you know?
[00:04:25] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned also that there's this concept that we're not who we think we are. We're not who other people think we are. We are who other people think we are — whatever. And that kind of goes along with what you're mentioning with watching the video and looking at the final product.
[00:04:37] Jason Silva: Totally.
[00:04:37] Jordan Harbinger: Can you break that down for us a little bit.
[00:04:39] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:04:39] Jordan Harbinger: Because that's complex yet fascinating.
[00:04:41] Jason Silva: Yeah, I remember reading this article on this concept called peopling. And it's inspired by a book called Others in Mind. And it has to do with our awareness that other people have interior worlds. And therefore our inferences, our modeling of what other people's interior worlds are like if we want to communicate and/or commune with those people. Any kind of interpersonal exchange requires rendering within my consciousness of the contents of your consciousness. And when I communicate with you, when I encode my thoughts verbally and transmit them through time and space, and I read your responses and cues, I can assess whether my modeling of your mind is accurate enough and whether I'm actually communicating accurately with your mind based on the cues that I'm getting back.
[00:05:28] Jordan Harbinger: Does everyone do that though? I feel like my dad doesn't even do that. He just communicates unidirectionally and then goes — and it's awful.
[00:05:35] Jason Silva: I definitely think that the more empathetic you are—
[00:05:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:37] Jason Silva: —the more rich your modeling of other people's minds are — you know, people talk about having — being an empath or whatever.
[00:05:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:05:43] Jason Silva: You can really feel other people. We all do it to an extent. I mean, I guess some people don't and that's when you feel like you're talking to a robot, that's like looking—
[00:05:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:05:51] Jason Silva: —right through you and has no idea of your inner world.
[00:05:55] Jordan Harbinger: You must get that a lot because the passion and all the things you talk about in philosophy, there's got to be people who go, "Wow, that's so fascinating." And then they just kind of go, "I'm going to dip out of here before I show them how dumb I am," or you know, "How much I'm not following along." Because I watched a lot of your stuff and I went, "I'm not sure that I understood that. Let me watch it again." And then I went, "Nope, Nope. I still don't understand it. Let me watch it again." And then I went—
[00:06:15] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:06:15] Jordan Harbinger: "Maybe this one's just not for me."
[00:06:16] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:06:16] Jordan Harbinger: And there was a few of it like that.
[00:06:17] Jason Silva: I think it depends on the topic. I think some people respond to the passion and to the fact that I seem genuinely excited—
[00:06:23] Jordan Harbinger: You are excited.
[00:06:23] Jason Silva: —or curious about what I'm talking about. I'm definitely out of my head in those videos, but just to finish the thought about, "I am not who I think I am." So the idea was that. When I talk to you, I am running a simulation of your mind and interacting with that. And then I'm also running a simulation of your simulation of me. So within my simulation of view, there's a simulation of how you see me. And that's who I then try to be. I want to be who I think you think I am unless I'm not interested in connecting with you.
[00:06:52] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:06:52] Jason Silva: But we're making those little micro assessments all the time. And then there's a sociologist called Cooley who calls this the looking-glass self, and that that's how interpersonal relationships work. And so his famous line is, "I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am." And human beings are social creatures.
[00:07:11] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:07:12] Jason Silva: So this is happening subconsciously all the time, but anyway, I thought it was an interesting thing to make a video about because it feels like when you have two mirrors that look at each other and it creates an engulfing infinity or recursive loop, that's kind of how consciousness works. I don't know if you've ever read Gödel, Escher, Bach.
[00:07:28] Jordan Harbinger: A long time ago—
[00:07:28] Jason Silva: Very famous quote.
[00:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: —when I was trying to be like, "If I talk this way, people will think I'm really smart."
[00:07:32] Jason Silva: Okay.
[00:07:33] Jordan Harbinger: It didn't work out for me. It worked for you. Whatever you're doing, it's working.
[00:07:36] Jason Silva: Well, I think I'm just genuinely curious to try to deconstruct things I don't understand. And he had a theory in that book about consciousness. That feels a lot like Cooley's looking-glass self. And basically what he says is our brains are media. Think of them as media, that store patterns like a hard drive.
[00:07:56] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:07:56] Jason Silva: And that pattern mirrors the world. It models the external world. Now, if you make a model of the external world, eventually you have to realize that that model of the world includes the observer within that world, making the observation of that world—
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, sure.
[00:08:12] Jason Silva: And what he calls an inevitable vortex of self-mirroring that eventually a real causal mind emerges. It is like when you plug a video camera to the TV screen and then face the camera at the TV, it creates an engulfing infinity.
[00:08:27] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:08:27] Jason Silva: That's consciousness. It feels like the movie Inception. You know that scene?
[00:08:30] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:08:31] Jason Silva: The mirror reflects the mirror reflects the mirror reflects the mirror
[00:08:32] Jordan Harbinger: And to your point, when you do that, you still get the screen of the TV in the shot—
[00:08:37] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:08:38] Jordan Harbinger: —again and again, and again and again.
[00:08:39] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:08:39] Jordan Harbinger: So the observer is always going to be in there.
[00:08:41] Jason Silva: Always.
[00:08:42] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:08:42] Jason Silva: I mean you can trip out with this stuff.
[00:08:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:44] Jason Silva: It starts to get really weird and odd, but I've always thought that getting a handle on a weird and odd idea gives me a semblance of control. And I think the reason for my interest in making these particularly short-form videos is that the heavier the idea, the more the creative challenge to kind of hone it in, to clothe it in language. And if I can do that effectively, it makes me feel like I'm in control because I can articulate this. I've rendered this into a solid thing. It fits in a drawer. Okay, been there done that, move on.
[00:09:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right, go on to understanding something else. And I can completely identify with that point. I mean, the show seeks to do that with human behavior in a lot of ways, figuring out, "Okay, what's happening here?" And I heard in one episode of a show, you were like, "Well, how come this love thing worked out that way?" Or, "How come this texting thing didn't work out this way?" And I thought, "Well, I can definitely explain that to you because there's been a decade and a half thinking about why these problems happen and how they can be solved." But you are a super passionate guy in your videos. You're performance philosopher I think some people have said—
[00:09:39] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:09:40] Jordan Harbinger: —which I think is really a cool descriptive.
[00:09:41] Jason Silva: It's an interesting title. So that comes from a quote by Timothy Leary. And Timothy Leary, of course, was a counterculture sort of hippie rockstar in the '60s., a Harvard professor. He took a bunch of LSD, realized, "Oh my God, we can hack our consciousnesses. Let's create a social revolution." And maybe he took a little too far at a time and society responded—
[00:09:59] Jordan Harbinger: At the time though.
[00:10:00] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:10:00] Jordan Harbinger: Right now. You'd be like, "Yeah, buddy. Tune in, drop out. Big deal."
[00:10:03] Jason Silva: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. But after his psychedelic thing, his peak, he came out in the '80s as a cyberneticist. Like his whole thing was the Internet is the new LSD. Computers will literalize the psychedelic dream of mind expansion. It was very interesting like Silicon Valley means counter-culture merger.
[00:10:22] Jordan Harbinger: Which led directly to probably Steve Jobs and all these other guys dropping acid.
[00:10:25] Jason Silva: Yeah, precisely
[00:10:26] Jordan Harbinger: We have the Internet and acid. Why not just combine the two?
[00:10:29] Jason Silva: Yeah, there's a book called What the Dormouse Said, which is all about how the counterculture and Silicon Valley merged. And so much of the techno dreams, singularity, Kevin Kelly, like, "We will become as gods and extend our intelligence," came from inspiration that came out of this sort of psychedelic vision. That we reconceived of computers as these big mainframe things for social control and instead become tools for personal liberation—
[00:10:54] Jordan Harbinger: Right instead of this
[00:10:54] Jason Silva: —and personal self-expression.
[00:10:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And I assume that when you're talking about personal liberation and self-expression, you're referring in many ways, so the things that you started creating and you did this before there were vloggers, right? You were kind of just like, "I'm going to make these little films."
[00:11:05] Jason Silva: Yeah. I started doing my little videos in like — well, I've been doing videos since 1994, is the truth.
[00:11:11] Jordan Harbinger: In Venezuela.
[00:11:12] Jason Silva: Yeah. I was doing videos and short films. I've been obsessed with the camera. And I think it was mostly because it was a way of capturing reality. You know, I was always acutely aware of how ephemeral life is, how ephemeral moments are. Everything is impermanent, everything is temporary. And this was again, back to the control thing.
[00:11:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:11:28] Jason Silva: If I can capture it, I can own it, eternalize temporary moments. I went to film school, double majored in film-philosophy, and then I got to college and ended up getting a gig at Current with Max. And then we worked there for four years. And when I left the network, I just wanted to go back to doing these philosophical, short films and put them on the Internet. And that was like 2010. People still roll their eyes at you when you're doing online video in like 2010, 2011.
[00:11:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:11:51] Jason Silva: Now, it's like, you know, not a big deal.
[00:11:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right now, everybody's doing it.
[00:11:54] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:11:54] Jordan Harbinger: If you're not doing it — like I don't do a lot of online video and people go, "What are you doing?"
[00:11:58] Jason Silva: Yeah, exactly.
[00:11:58] Jordan Harbinger: "You're wasting this opportunity". So here we have these GoPros in our face, and I'm trying to pretend like they're not there.
[00:12:03] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:12:03] Jordan Harbinger: Because just like you mentioned earlier, when something is observing you, you get a little bit of that. So I'm like trying not to let it modify my behavior in a sense. It's hard.
[00:12:11] Jason Silva: You know, one way of doing that is to get into a flow state and to get out of your head. And Timothy Leary's quote was, "In the information age, you don't teach philosophy, you perform it." Now, it's not so much that I read that and I'm like, "Well, I want to go perform philosophy."
[00:12:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:12:25] Jason Silva: But rather that, philosophizing is a verb is an act, lived out loud. It's pondering and contemplating. It's not something pre-scripted or even thought out beforehand as much as discovered in real-time, as you probe the idea. But that requires getting out of your head that requires silencing what Steven Kotler calls the inner critic, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or whatever, right? And so that's when I kind of fell in love with some of the ideas of The Flow Genome Project and their new book Stealing Fire and all about silencing the monkey mind. And the key idea is this part of the brain that is doing the self-editing, the inner critic, the self-doubt, the overthinking of everything, we've inherited. You know? Because it was planning for the future, it was worrying about the predator.
[00:13:09] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:13:09] Jason Silva: I mean, we are the descendants of the most neurotic humans. It served us very well. It allows us to think about the future and plan accordingly. Fair enough. But it also betrays us because it prevents us from ever truly being in the present, always five steps ahead—
[00:13:21] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:21] Jason Silva: —and when not things to worry about, we're still finding things to worry about like now — well, now my self-esteem is what I'm worried about.
[00:13:27] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:28] Jason Silva: I'm worried about how I'm coming across, not the fact that a lion is going to eat me, but it turns out. And this comes from those FMRIs scans they did on freestyle rappers versus people—
[00:13:36] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, right, right.
[00:13:36] Jason Silva: —who are saying memorizing lyrics. The freestyle rappers shut down the neocortical hardware, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the zone, the jazz musician in the pocket, the elite athlete when he surrenders and submits to the amazing feat of athleticism. In these moments, as Jamie Wheal says, the aperture focuses. It's not so much you use more of your brain. It's actually shutting down parts of the brain that don't serve you in that moment and the self-experiences that as liberation. So with my videos, I quickly realized that's the function they served for me. That was my jazz. That's why they're fully improvised. They allow me to dive into the moment.
[00:14:13] One of the key insights for me happened in high school. When I was experimenting with cannabis, cannabis has a history of being used in an improvisational context. That's why jazz musicians love incorporating cannabis into their jam sessions because you get a flood of dopamine. It increases pattern recognition, it increases lateral thinking, increases associational thinking, and it thrusts you or hurls you into the now or into the forever box. And I think for me, it was very interesting that anything that could be a catalyst to get me out of my head, to hurl me into the present, that's the surrender part. But then the control part was, make sure I have a camera around—
[00:14:48] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, yeah.
[00:14:49] Jason Silva: —to capture when this is happening. And it reminded me of a line from Black Swan where — you know, that Natalie Portman film?
[00:14:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course.
[00:14:54] Jason Silva: So the dance choreographer is talking to Natalie Portman and she wants to be the black swan and he's like, "Look, you're a perfect white swan. You're all about control and deliberate moves and practice and meditation and judiciousness and control, control, control. You're a great white swan, but the black swan has to let go, has to surrender, has to surprise ourselves, be a dangerous transcend." And so he finally says to her, "Look, perfection, any kind of perfection or exceptionality in anything is not just about control. It's also about letting go." So it's actually both being able to do both. To ping pong between one and the other.
[00:15:24] And I think with those videos, the control could be all the reading that I do, all the thinking that I do about these ideas, all the planning that goes into bringing the camera, getting the right people together, creating the vibe, authoring the environment, to get myself there. And then it's about submit.
[00:15:38] Jordan Harbinger: You don't script the videos—
[00:15:39] Jason Silva: No, not at all.
[00:15:39] Jordan Harbinger: And that's great. You still have to prepare for the videos. And I think a lot of people go, "Wow, this guy doesn't even prepare for his videos." And that's just not true. They're unscripted, but there's a lot of prep. The control element still has to be there to create the product.
[00:15:50] Jason Silva: Yeah, I would say that the control is to put myself in an environment where I feel safe. I'm around people that I trust so that I can be really vulnerable and fully surrender so then I can surprise myself — to go beyond myself, right? And see what I find.
[00:16:06] Jordan Harbinger: You can see yourself, surprising yourself in the video if you look close.
[00:16:09] Jason Silva: Of course.
[00:16:10] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know you that well but—
[00:16:11] Jason Silva: That's exactly right. I think that subconsciously people process from the video and Steven Kotler wrote about this in Stealing Fire. He's profiled so many athletes and surfers and big wave surfers that get in the zone. He's never really talked to an artist. You know what I mean? And I think what was interesting is that. He said that in my videos, both the verbal diarrhea — the intensity of words that comes at you combined with the jarring editing and cuts, shuts down conscious processing in the viewer because it's overwhelming. You can only hold like three or four items in mind at once through conscious processing. But then you switched to unconscious processing. So you move into an altered state and then you receive the intensity of the video. So when I'm talking about creativity in altered states of consciousness in these videos, I'm also inducing an altered state of consciousness in the viewer, which is different than just telling them about an altered state of consciousness.
[00:17:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:17:02] Jason Silva: The reason that they respond that is because that's, what's actually happening to me as a performer when they watch those videos
[00:17:08] Jordan Harbinger: Because of the way that we mirror things that we see and all that subconscious—
[00:17:12] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:17:12] Jordan Harbinger: —communication.
[00:17:13] Jason Silva: Yeah, they call it the four trillion dollar altered states economy, the money that people spend to get out of their heads. Whether it's watching a musician in a concert or going and watching an MMA fighter or going and watching a horror film. Like we want to watch other people in an altered state because it gets us into an altered state vicariously. And, you know, when you were mentioning that in my videos, you see me surprising myself because what's happening there is I'm coming to realize where I've ended up with this like verbal tirade—
[00:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:17:42] Jason Silva: —and finding myself delighted that I landed in some interesting spot, which is very similar to when these rappers freestyle. It's just that that's one particular context that we're used to seeing. "What are you going to rap on 30 seconds? Give me go!" And that's fine, in my context, it's a little different because it's a different context and it's maybe a different set of things that I'm talking about, but I'm convinced it's the same mental process.
[00:18:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You can even see it happening in your non-verbal communication. We'll link to some of your videos in the show notes.
[00:18:07] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:18:07] Jordan Harbinger: Jason starts moving more when the idea starts to blend together. You start to move your body more and then you look up and you're like, "And then boo!" And it's like your hands even go up. And it's like an eruption of an idea that comes out of your head.
[00:18:18] Jason Silva: And I've actually read that when we use our limbs to speak, they are part of our thinking.
[00:18:24] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:18:25] Jason Silva: It's happening through the limbs. Like this aids me in my expressiveness and there's feedback happening between my arms and my brain and my brain and my arms. I remember when I started working at Current TV for the first time and one of the producers who was not my best friend — you know, I'd have to do these hosts wraps. And he's like, "Put your hand in your pocket. Be a little more calm, a little bit more chill." And he doesn't realize what he's doing is he's silencing my soul in that moment. He's making me self-conscious.
[00:18:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:18:50] Jason Silva: He's actually taking away what could possibly make me good at what I do. And he's putting me back in my head instead of letting me take me out—
[00:18:57] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:18:58] Jason Silva: —because I was concentrating, like keeping your hand in, and now I'm self-conscious. Now, you've completely crippled my creativity.
[00:19:03] Jordan Harbinger: Well, we've got the mind following the body and the body following the mind. So if you shut one of those things down deliberately to look better in some sort of dumb frame that you could probably fix with a wider lens, or by backing up two feet, you're going to ruin the final product.
[00:19:16] Jason Silva: A hundred percent.
[00:19:17] Jordan Harbinger: In anything even like this, with the cameras, that the thing I have to get used to is don't knock this thing out of whack—
[00:19:22] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:19:22] Jordan Harbinger: —because when I'm in my home studio, I'm flinging things around. And if I don't hit my desk hard by accident, at least twice, it's just probably not a good show.
[00:19:29] Jason Silva: Yeah. Yeah. I think any performer, but like I love movies, so I always watch interviews with actors that I love talking about their craft and you know, they talk about the search for truth. To be fully present and committed to the reality of an imaginary circumstance. That's a powerful thing, right? To hypnotize yourself, to get into an altered state, a frenzy, a trance of such significance that a crew of 25 crew members and cameras all around you can nonetheless not thwart your capacity to induce an alternate reality, that for all purposes is real, right?
[00:20:03] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah.
[00:20:04] Jason Silva: The camera doesn't lie. When we see transcendence on screen that's because that actor is having a real experience under imaginary circumstances and that's beautiful to watch. And so in my own small way, when I try to be creative, when I try to make creative work, and I'm sure that you get into that space in your podcast, the reason it's so successful is no doubt because you're able to induce that alter state, that truth with your guests is that you go to that place, man, and you're not there. It's the going-beyond yourself. You finally stop worrying about how you're coming across and how you're going to be perceived and all that junk. The cul-de-sacs and error messages as Jamie Wheal calls them, you know? I love those guys.
[00:20:48] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jason Silva. We'll be right back.
[00:20:52] This episode is sponsored in part by Bambee, B-A-M-B-E-E. When running a business, HR issues can kill you. Wrongful termination suits, minimum wage requirements, labor regulations, and HR manager salaries are not cheap. They average $70,000 a year. Bambee, B-A-M-B-E-E, created specifically for small businesses, you get a dedicated HR manager, they'll craft an HR policy. They'll maintain your compliance for $99 a month. So you can sort of set it and forget it. And you do get a dedicated manager. Not a call center. It's not a thing you log into and you get a bunch of PDFs to get a read or whatever. From onboarding determinations, they customize your policies to fit your business and help you manage your employees day to day for $99 a month. There's month to month. There's no hidden fees. You can cancel at any time. You didn't start your business because you wanted to spend time on HR compliance. Let Bambee help you out and get a free HR audit today. Jen—
[00:21:47] Jen Harbinger: Go to bambee.com/jordan right now to schedule your free HR audit. That's bambee.com/jordan, B-A-M-B-E-E.com/jordan.
[00:21:58] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Better Help. I'm a huge fan of therapy. I love the idea of Better Help here because you can get a therapist using your phone. And I know that sounds like how did that not exist before? That's the mark of a great idea. Something where you go, "Hey, wait, that doesn't exist already." With Better Help, you fill out a questionnaire. They'll find out your specific needs match up in a couple of days, video or phone sessions. You can chat texts with your therapist at your convenience. Everything is of course confidential. And if you don't like your counselor, which happens, you can switch at any time. No additional charge. I think right now, especially over the holidays at the beginning of the year, it's a great time to regain a little bit of sanity. Get your ducks in a row. Even if you're already pretty locked down and grounded, therapy's a great place to discover things that you can address, fix, and get going on your way. So 2021, be the year that you regain a little sanity, or are you locked down your existing sanity, maybe I shouldn't say a lockdown. Maybe I'm triggering some people and now you need even more therapy. Better Help, you can get started today at better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan. You get 10 percent off with the discount code JORDAN gets tired today. Better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan. Talk to a therapist online and get help.
[00:23:07] And now back to Jason Silva on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:23:13] They're so brilliant. When I read that book, I thought, "Wow, there's so much good stuff in here." And so of course, when I read books, one of my sort of tricks is to read the acknowledgment section and make sure that I highlight the names they talk about because —
[00:23:24] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:23:25] Jordan Harbinger: —you have to get your inspiration from somewhere. If you can find those people, you can sort of pull up the roots and look under the hood of what's even deeper into the book. It's the way to do it.
[00:23:32] Jason Silva: A hundred percent. I don't know if you're familiar with The Edge Foundation.
[00:23:35] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard of it, but I'm not that familiar.
[00:23:36]Jason Silva: So John Brockman, he's a famous literary agent. He represents a lot of the science writers, people like Sam Harris and others. And he's got this organization called Edge and their tagline is something that I've borrowed as a kind of a life philosophy back to what you were saying about looking in the cliff notes of the book and digging deeper into everything. He says, "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, to gather the world's most interesting minds, to put them together in a room, and to have them ask each other the questions they've been asking themselves."
[00:24:05] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:24:07] Jason Silva: That's beautiful.
[00:24:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's nice. That's a good one. So if you're going to steal a slogan, that's a good one to steal.
[00:24:11] Jason Silva: Yeah, but that's the dream, like my relationship, my friendship with people — like The Flow Genome project founders, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, comes from wanting to find people who could verify and legitimize interior experiences that I had had in a language that is both poetic and archetypical, as well as scientific.
[00:24:32] Jordan Harbinger: Scientific.
[00:24:33] Jason Silva: And that's what those guys do. So you know, Steven Kotler brings the neuroscience, like breaks it down, harden the materialists, and then you have Jamie Wheal, waxing rhapsodic a la, Joseph Campbell, and like, archetypes and bliss f*ck crucifixions and dying into the moment and all this stuff. And I'm like, "Holy f*ck. These two know how to tango," you know? And so I became best friends with them. They're like my gurus.
[00:24:53] Jordan Harbinger: Did you ever deal with, say some kind of imposter syndrome? Because I feel like a lot of folks would say, "Well, you know, what qualifies you to do this type of thing?" And finding guys like Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal who legitimize it in science is you can kind of take the mask off and go, "Look, this is real. So screw everybody who doubted me."
[00:25:10] Jason Silva: Yeah. So Steven Kotler in the process of interviewing me for that chapter. Revealed me to myself. He really anchored my meandering journey because I had never had a plan, all right. There's no directions that I followed. I never had a map. But Chris Anderson from TED once said in an interview, "We don't use maps. We use a compass." And that's always what I've had, but then sometimes looking backwards, you see that you did kind of follow a trail and it was the trail of finding these flow states and building your life around them. And your instrument happened to be film and video. You use the storytelling technologies of media that you had to find and articulate, your voice that got you into that altered state, and so on and so forth.
[00:25:55] But then explaining the neuroscience behind the experience that I was having, and then having people like Jamie articulate the sort of existential context for why this matters. It just made it all make sense. And as far as imposter syndrome is concerned, I never would call myself an expert in anything. I don't want to be an academic because I think that the people that are academics have a different kind of training. And I think they're very important and I don't want to confuse people between what I do and what they do. I am an artist which means I want the poetic license and the freedom to interpret and to take poetic license and to get inspired. And I call my videos, art. I host a couple of series of National Geographic there about science because I'm a good synthesizer. And I explained some of these ideas, maybe in a poetic way, but I'm not a scientist.
[00:26:43] I'm an artist. I'm an artist and Marshall McLuhan used to say, "It's always been the artist realizes that the future is the present and uses his work to prepare the grounds for it. So it's like the artist matters too. And I'm just trying to legitimize the artist as a voice that can communicate important ideas related to science and technology and the implications of science and technology in our rapidly changing world.
[00:27:03] Jordan Harbinger: Being such an artistic free thinker was a little bit surprising for me. You grew up in a repressive regime. I mean, there's no getting around it. Chavez, Venezuela, not exactly this bastion of, "Hey, let's let the kids experiment with all the stuff and videotape it and talk about whatever they want." I mean, it's literally the opposite of what people think about the communist-socialist regime. So what's going on there?
[00:27:23] Jason Silva: Yeah. So Chavez is like a terminal cancer. That shows up to cripple its hosts. He was a cancer and he died of cancer.
[00:27:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:27:34] Jason Silva: So I don't think that's a coincidence.
[00:27:35] Jordan Harbinger: It's a little poetic justice, isn't it?
[00:27:37] Jason Silva: Yeah. 1998. He took over and he really made things far worse. Venezuela for a while, you know, on the back of oil income was one of the wealthiest nations in South America. It had a really strong middle-class very high standard of living. We were like the Switzerland of South America for a while. And my grandparents who were immigrants came there and did very well for themselves. So I grew up in a very cosmopolitan bubble in Caracas. The country was much better off back then, but it still had that Latin American signature social division where—
[00:28:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right yeah.
[00:28:06] Jason Silva: —a small percentage of the population is extremely cosmopolitan and the rest are very rural. You know, people who live in the countryside, farmers, et cetera.
[00:28:13] Jordan Harbinger: You're an '80s and '90s kid?
[00:28:14] Jason Silva: Yeah. I grew up in the '80s. Yeah, exactly. I was in this cosmopolitan bubble and I went to an international school. My mom, who was a teacher at the international school, taught high school, English literature is an intellectual and a poet and an artist. And so the environment of my home was extremely Bohemian.
[00:28:29] Jordan Harbinger: Surprise.
[00:28:30] Jason Silva: The most Bohemian of sculptures and art and paintings and psychedelia. And my friends would come over to my mom's house and they'd be like stoned. And they'd be like looking at her art and they just couldn't believe that this was real. Like I was lucky in that sense.
[00:28:43] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of the videos that you create are based on how some elements of our brain and perception and things like that can combine to kind of trick us. Brain Games is in fact, many of the episodes I've seen—
[00:28:52] Jason Silva: Yeah, sure.
[00:28:52] Jordan Harbinger: —are about that. What are some of your favorite cognitive distortions that you just can't talk about enough? This is so important. How does not everybody know this? Everybody in my family has got to be aware of this.
[00:29:01] Jason Silva: Yeah. Yeah. Well, one of my mom's bumper sticker quotes in her classroom was, "We don't see the world as it is. We see the world as we are." So our interpretive frameworks matter. The set of codes and symbols and moralistic philosophy, like our cultural reality tunnel to quote Robert Anton Wilson matters. So again, what that does is it informs what we decide about what happens to us, like how we feel about what happens to us. And so when we feel disempowered, sometimes it can serve us to try to take ourselves out of context and realize, "Am I really disempowered? Is the whole world really conspiring against me?" Or, "Do I have an interpretive framework that is fatalistic, that is defeatist, that is not serving me. And how can I change it?" The notion that reality is coupled with perception is very important to me. I've had enough experiences in altered states of consciousness to realize that perspective is reality. The angle with which you see the world is reality.
[00:29:57] You can talk about some of these film theorists that talk about how when you edit a film, depending on the order of how you show certain frames and certain shots, you can get the audience to have a certain opinion about what they're seeing on screen—
[00:30:08] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:30:09] Jason Silva: —with very, very little context, you know? There's that famous shot of Hitchcock showing that if a shot was shown in a certain way, in a certain order, he looked like a pervert. And if it was shown in another way, in a certain order, he looked like a really nice old man.
[00:30:21] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. We got to find that and throw it in the show notes. I'm sure it's on YouTube somewhere.
[00:30:24] Jason Silva: Yeah. The Nerdwriter did a video essay—
[00:30:27]Jordan Harbinger: I know him.
[00:30:27] Jason Silva: —the film, Arrival. He's brilliant.
[00:30:29] Jordan Harbinger: That guy is the next level thinker like yourself actually.
[00:30:32] Jason Silva: He's one of my heroes and I've become very good friends with him as well. I adore his work. Evan Puschak, The Nerd Writer. He did an analysis of the film Arrival which is really an analysis of consciousness and cinema and how it plays with time and context. And this is where he used the example of Hitchcock. But again, that applies also to our day-to-day reality outside of movies, our day-to-day reality has been edited to a certain degree by context, by culture, by language can even sculpt our worldview, by the clothing we wear. We're a different person—
[00:31:01] Jordan Harbinger: Certainly.
[00:31:01] Jason Silva: —with a blazer on, and when we're not, you know? David Lenson wrote a wonderful book called On Drugs, and said that consciousness is a collaboration between subjective and objective. So it's a person multiplied by place multiplied by time.
[00:31:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:31:13] Jason Silva: Revealing a garden of forking paths of possible consciousnesses, right? I mean, that's what we are. I mean, you know, they say, if you're a sum of the five people you spend the most amount of time with. Yeah, but you're also your language, the context, where you are, who you're with. People who are multilingual tend to be more tolerant and creative because they see the world through two different lenses — [foreign language] — and that sensibility just allows you to more easily see the world through the eyes of others because you know what it's like to see the world through different eyes.
[00:31:48] Jordan Harbinger: Are there certain concepts that you think about more in Spanish than you do in English and vice versa?
[00:31:52] Jason Silva: It's a hard question to answer because I don't know what language I think is really, I guess maybe I think in both, I don't think that I'm thinking in any particular language unless I'm trying to say something.
[00:32:03] Jordan Harbinger: Right. The voice in your head, I guess, is the only one. If I think about what language I think in, I don't, I just have feelings, right?
[00:32:09] Jason Silva: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But what's interesting about me is that I literally grew up with both. So my parents are both native Spanish speakers and my mother is also a native English speaker. So even though I grew up in Venezuela, I was completely bilingual. And what that does — again, it's two worlds. It's like, if I'm talking to the nanny or some of my Venezuelan relatives, it's like, this is Venezuelan culture. This is where they're coming from. This is their world, but then I would switch to English with my mom and it allowed me to just join those two worlds. It's just right away. It allows you to ping pong between different monkey suits.
[00:32:43] Jordan Harbinger: When I switch languages and I'm not fully bilingual, but if I switch to German or something like that, the context switches pretty much immediately, and it can be almost like a knife cutting, open the fabric that you think you're looking at reality. And then the knife goes through and then behind it is, "Oh, that's what I'm really — that's who I really am."
[00:32:58] Jason Silva: Paying attention, deconstructing how conscious experience is informed by context place, even music can be very empowering. To use the metaphor that Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal use the knobs and levers approach to perception. Now, they're using it very much in the context of psychedelics, but I think the knobs and levers approach can be as simple as if I go to Amsterdam with my buddy Ben and my buddy Jason Goodman. And we take this stereo system with us when we're riding bikes and we're listening to this particular cinematic score. I'll be able to frame a particular reality. It's like being a stage designer, the people who choreograph the stage. Like, you know, when you go to the theater, you sit in the chair. If the stage is made to look like an 18th century British home, you're already contextually ready to receive that. If the actors are dressed in a particular costume, you're ready to meet them at that reality.
[00:33:49] David Lenson calls that stewardship of internal life. When you realize the creative capacity that you have through your creative and linguistic choices to inform consciousness, that's like the best-kept secret to any kind of happiness. It's not when I buy that car, but it's when I get in that car, that is a particular monkey suit. That's a particular reality that I want to render. I want to feel like James Bond, or you can get really creative like it's a jukebox style selection of like the kind of reality authorings you want to create for yourself. And I don't want to, it sounds like a new-age thinker, but I'm talking literally about it. It's no different than like if you have a girlfriend that's really into hosting dinner parties.
[00:34:28] And she's like an expert, like having the candles and the lighting in a certain way. And she plays the perfect jazz music in the background, creates little movies. Just think of yourself as you're an editor and an actor you're living the reality, but you're also in the editing room, tweaking the scene. And in making the movie play out and have a certain mood and a certain vibe and a certain flavor.
[00:34:48] Jordan Harbinger: You know, who's good at this is kids?
[00:34:49] Jason Silva: Yeah, of course.
[00:34:50] Jordan Harbinger: At some point around eight or 10, we just kind of switched to, instead of creating that all internally, we go, "Well, no, actually now I need this external thing to do."
[00:34:58] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:34:58] Jordan Harbinger: And it just gets worse as we get older.
[00:35:00] Jason Silva: Yeah, because the price of what you need to get there changes. And sometimes you get so jaded that nothing will make a difference.
[00:35:06] Jordan Harbinger: Well, we're in Hollywood.
[00:35:06] Jason Silva: Some people—
[00:35:07] Jordan Harbinger: You can find examples of that everywhere.
[00:35:08] Jason Silva: Yeah. Some people can fly first class to Paris, stay in a five-star hotel, and complain of being bored. I think it's a dance. I think, you know, the little kid can build a fort made of sheets. I mean the little kids have maximum imagination and minimum — even the little kid, some environments are better for thriving than others. Like I had an enormous yard in Venezuela. We had practically half a mountain property, so that mountain was freaking world. It was a safe, contained environment that I could make a part of my mental landscape.
[00:35:39] It's like, when you go on nature walks, right. Like a really beautiful nature walk. They say that those are so good for contemplation or introspection. Why is that? Well, if you're in a nature walk in the middle of nowhere and there's nobody else around except you, or maybe your friend, the landscape becomes your mental landscape. You appropriate the mystical surroundings. And that mystical surrounding becomes the mystical mood that you're in. But the minute that somebody else pops in some like annoying tourists, what does that do? Now, you have to model their mental world. And now your dreamscape has to be shared with them and that's, "Oh sh*t, buzzkill."
[00:36:14] Jordan Harbinger: Buzzkill.
[00:36:15] Jason Silva: Somebody else ruining my sacred holy moment. So I always say, you have to be able to design the context that you can then appropriate to become your mental reality. And nowhere, is that more clear? You know, now that pot is getting legal in all these places in Colorado, why do some people smoke pot and get paranoid and wig out? They're like, "Oh, I got so awkward in that room." And then some people smoke pot and they go into archetypal realm of ideal—
[00:36:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:36:44] Jason Silva: —context, bro. They're appropriating a different landscape that surrounds them into their mental experience. Cannabis and many other techniques of ecstasy, one of the key things they do is they're non-specific amplifiers of consciousness. What that means is they make you aware of how your creative and linguistic choices are making you feel. Some people can listen to music so much that they're so satiated, they don't even notice the music that's playing in the background. They don't stop and smell the roses. One of the first things that happens when somebody gets high, you play them a song they've heard a thousand times and their life, "Wow. I forgot how much I love that song."
[00:37:17] What's different? The only thing that's different is that you're noticing how the song is making you feel. Normally, the song is doing that, you're just not aware of it. You're not paying attention. Right?
[00:37:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right. You're thinking about your grocery list.
[00:37:27] Jason Silva: Whatever it may be. Yeah. And so people say, learn to be in the present, learn to be mindful. They're all saying the same thing. They're saying your creative and linguistic choices are constantly informing your interior experience. If you learn to tune in to how those signals are authoring your interior experience, you've won because then you can start cultivating those signals, like a freaking DJ and that's really empowering. I mean, if you're interested in human flourishing and you're frustrated by the fact that the things you buy, don't say satiate your soul is because the mental apparatus that you're incorporating into that is a pivotal part of that feedback loop.
[00:38:06] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jason Silva. We'll be right back.
[00:38:11] This episode is sponsored in part by ButcherBox. You got to love me — some meat in a box — that came out weird, but anyway, in 2021, I'm going to eat better. I'm going to spend less time and money at the grocery store. Thanks to ButcherBox. It's a meat delivery subscription. And as some of you have mentioned, that's about the most American thing ever. Each month, they send a box of the highest quality meat for a better price than the grocery store, and certainly a better selection. It gives you more time to spend cooking, sharing, delicious meals with family and friends eating. You know, that's my favorite part of meat is eating it. Additionally, ButcherBox is high quality humanely sourced meat. All meat is free of antibiotics and added hormones. And each box is nine to 11 pounds of meat. So that's like 24 individual meals, packed fresh, shipped frozen. I'm a fan of their sugar/nitrate-free bacon. I love the wild-caught Alaskan salmon. And right now you get two pounds of salmon free with your first box, two pounds of salmon. Go to butcherbox.com/jordan. That's butcherbox.com/jordan.
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[00:41:12] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers — that's what keeps us going. If you want to get all the discounts and the deals in one place, definitely check it out at jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you have any problems with any of those, please do contact me directly. We'll make it good. Please do consider supporting those who support us. And don't forget, we've got a worksheet for today's episode. Just like always, if you want some of the drill exercises, thought exercises, et cetera, talk about during the show in one easy place, that's where you get them in the worksheets. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Now for the conclusion of our conversation with Jason Silva.
[00:41:50] How do you yourself into and out of feedback loops that are negatives and positive when you do your videos, for example, oftentimes you're out in nature, you're in like a weird barn or something with the roof caving in.
[00:42:01] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:42:01] Jordan Harbinger: And I think, "Okay, this isn't just cool scenery. There's something going on here," because I would imagine it would even be hard for you to function in society if you were like you are in those videos everywhere you go all day long.
[00:42:12] Jason Silva: Of course and the reason that I wouldn't want. To be in a place where I have to manage consensus reality. I can't appropriate New York City as part of my mental landscape unless I'm ready to include all of those people as part of my mental landscape. So what I do is I just don't do it. I'm like I'm in borrowed space. I'm in borrowed land. This is not my mental landscape. This is a shared space. This is like being on a plane. You want to behave, you want to follow protocol. You want to be compliant. And that's fine. Society requires that. Thankfully, there's a lot of outlets where each of us can move into our own personal universe.
[00:42:50] I'm in Lake Mead, outside Las Vegas, and I rent a boat with my friend and we go to the middle of the water and we turn the boat on and play our favorite song. All of a sudden we're offering our own little operatic moments. You know what I mean? And so I've learned that and I've cultivated. I think the art of artfully curating particular environments that catalyze certain States of consciousness. And I use different tools at my disposal.
[00:43:19] Jordan Harbinger: Got it.
[00:43:20] Jason Silva: But with huge respect for all of these variables. So my favorite place to make videos is Amsterdam. There was a recent article in New York Magazine called The Psychological Impact of Boring Buildings. And it was actually saying that like city design — again, this is happening all the time, whether we're paying attention to it or not. That boring buildings, that uniform buildings that don't have enough diversity, like the city landscapes can trigger depression can cause anxiety architecture when it's too functional and not aesthetic enough can have all these negative repercussions. And it makes sense that the ideal design of a cityscape should be first of all, for walking speed, not for cars, because that's what we're designed for. And that every five seconds we should look at something different. So as we walk, it should change enough that every five seconds there's a new structure, a new building, a different storefront, that constant novelty.
[00:44:13] So you have a city like Amsterdam, it's like New York's West Village turned into a city.
[00:44:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:44:17] Jason Silva: Low buildings, gorgeous, like an old European style city with beautiful canals. And then what do you have? Severely restricted automobile transportation in the city and huge bicycle infrastructure. So everybody's moving around on bicycles. Like kids, grandmas, and everything in between. People put their kids on the baskets of their bicycles. So it almost looks like a Disneyland for adults. So you already have that surrealist environment. That sense of agency and volition that being on a bicycle and being able to go everywhere gives you.
[00:44:47] You also have the element of being in an alternate reality because it's a different culture. So it's kind of like you're watching this VR simulation. That's like, "Oh, this is like another reality, but I'm slightly outside of it but looking in so interesting." Then cannabis is legal there.
[00:45:01] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:45:02] Jason Silva: So what that means is that you can have an espresso, you can have a beer, you can also have a joint, which as David Lenson says, creates a dialectical pattern of reconcilable estrangement with everyday perception. So what does that mean? It means the ordinary becomes slightly new and different, right? You see it as if for the first time and you reconnect with ordinary perceptions as if they were new, right? The sense of first sight is unencumbered by knowingness, rather than the "been there and done that" of the adult mind. So you see the world through the eyes of a child.
[00:45:30] So you bring all those elements together. Then you bring maybe your closest friends. And that's a really nice space to induce childhood, like a state of wonder and curiosity. No worries or constraints, zero anxiety. And you can incorporate the mental landscape very easily because even the other people that are there, they're operating in a different channel than you.
[00:45:48] Jordan Harbinger: That totally makes sense. So you're changing your environment, you're changing the people you surround yourself with. Maybe adding or subtracting something from your consciousness by taking something or whatever.
[00:45:58] Jason Silva: Yes. You're bringing trusted friends with you. So that, in that other realm, when things get a little weird, you can always look at them in the eye and be like, "All right, we're both in here. Okay. We're in this together."
[00:46:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So, it's a safety element.
[00:46:07] Jason Silva: Yeah, it's paying attention to everything. You need to travel to another realm, dude. It's the same thing that you would want to pack for an epic journey. Treat your life like a journey, pack accordingly— the right friends, the right vibe, the right people, the right equipment, everything,
[00:46:21] Jordan Harbinger: The videos are excellent and for people who haven't seen them. You did the videos, maybe to share a little bit of your thoughts, give people a head trip. It's kind of like you're crawling into someone's head and then starting to paint on the walls.
[00:46:31] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:46:31] Jordan Harbinger: Does that make sense?
[00:46:32] Jason Silva: Yeah, those are called Shots of Awe and you can see them in the YouTube page, Shots of Awe, or follow my Facebook page, Jason Silva. And they're kind of like trailers for big ideas. They're kind of like an entry point to dig deeper into something related to technology or creativity or the human condition. And what's interesting is those videos, that were very much a passion project and continue to be a passion project, have led to everything else. So Brain Games came because Nat Geo execs had seen some of these videos and dug my passion and were like, "Let's do this brain show together." Origins came because Brain Games did really well. My videos were continuing to explode and Nat Geo gave me a chance to do a project that would bring some of the sensibility of my videos to TV. So if you watch Origins, my new TV series on Nat Geo, it's about the origins of humankind. It's really about the McLuhan quote. "First we build the tools and then the tools build us." Looking at human cultural evolution through that lens. So we domesticated fire, but fire also domesticated us.
[00:47:29] Jordan Harbinger: True, yeah
[00:47:29] Jason Silva: Feedback loops, feedback loops. And the show is structured in a way that every act has a Shot of Awe-esque opening in every single act of the show that we call them the symphonies that I did with John Boswell for Melodysheep. And they basically look like shots of HBO level.
[00:47:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:44] Jason Silva: They're beautiful. And then we have these amazing historical recreations shot in Africa that looked like mini-movies, that chronicle these key moments in history. So the visuals are — we stepped it up. And so it really does feel like my passion and curiosity to create these like media brain bombs in the short form, and now getting to unpack them in the larger form for Origins has been finally literalized. And the goal with Origins is the same as with Shots of Awe, is I don't just want to tell you about an idea. I want to get you into an altered state—
[00:48:11] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:48:11] Jason Silva: —and then feed you the inception.
[00:48:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yes. Which you do very well.
[00:48:14] Jason Silva: Thanks, bro.
[00:48:15] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned the tools, which is a great segue because AI is coming, right? We're talking — people are afraid of it. People are excited about it. Technology is and has always, probably, been a cognitive appendage. It's becoming a part of our brain. And a lot of people complain about that. I don't necessarily think it's bad.
[00:48:31] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:48:31] Jordan Harbinger: And in fact, I think it's probably really great.
[00:48:33] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:48:33] Jordan Harbinger: We've been adapting our tools since the freaking stone age. We're still here so — but how do you think AI is going to change us? Instead of a robotic arm or a hand—
[00:48:41] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:48:42] Jordan Harbinger: I might have an 800 X brain—
[00:48:44] Jason Silva: Of course.
[00:48:44] Jordan Harbinger: —that's doing the computing—
[00:48:46] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:48:46] Jordan Harbinger: And what's that going to do to the world? And further, if my AI is talking to your AI, do we still have a relationship? I mean, if my AI is doing 800 X—
[00:48:55] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:48:55] Jordan Harbinger: —what my brain is doing—
[00:48:56] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:48:56] Jordan Harbinger: —which part is more real.
[00:48:57] Jason Silva: Things could get weird. But as you said, very eloquently, we've had these cognitive appendages already for a long time. So two of my favorite thinkers are David Chalmers and Andy Clark. They're cognitive philosophers. So they wrote this essay online called The Extended Mind Thesis. And Andy Clark wrote a book called Natural Born Cyborgs. And the key idea is that we've always incorporated non-biological props and scaffoldings into our mental architecture.
[00:49:22] So they talk about an example of an airplane. So an airplane is a symbiotic organism of biological and non-biological intelligence. The airplane is controlled because the pilot watches the autopilot and the autopilot watches the pilot. And it is in that feedback loop, that infinity loop, that figure eight, that you have something that is as reliable as it is because it's distributed between biological and non-biological intelligence.
[00:49:43] When you interface with your phone, which allows you to express yourself on video or send your thoughts and ideas to people across the planet in real-time or broadcast tweets and all the media that you can do that is essentially versions of your mind, turned inside out is made possible through a feedback loop, mediated experience between you and your phone. Part of your thinking is happening on your phone when you write something down. Part of your thoughts are being transmitted through that phone and that you can then watch back later and reflect. So there's constantly a feedback loop.
[00:50:12] What these guys say is that the mind, as we know it is not limited to the brain. The brain is a crucial component, but what we call mind emerges in the feedback loop between brains, tools, and environments. And so environment is informing thoughts and ideas. The way you interface with your tools is informing thoughts and ideas so that it is — just a feedback loop is a better metaphor for life than the DNA logo.
[00:50:40] Jordan Harbinger: So if we're looking at these feedback loops and we're looking at your art, your videos as influencing your mind in the minds of other people, through your videos, is it safe to say that transitively, you're looking at people almost as art projects? I mean, I'm not trying to pin you into a corner it—
[00:50:54] Jason Silva: No, no, no.
[00:50:55] Jordan Harbinger: —just seems like that makes sense to look at it that way.
[00:50:57] Jason Silva: I mean, I think that it would be appropriate to — I think it was a Dawkins who said, "If you want to understand life, do not think of throbbing gels and oozing liquids. Think about information, technology, words, instructions." So DNA is code. We are made of language. We are linguistic all the way down. DNA replication was information technology, the dominant form of information technology on earth until consciousness and language.
[00:51:27] Then we went from trading in genes to trading in memes, right? And means are the new replicator. Born from the primordial soup of human culture. The vector of transmission is language and electronic communication. So this information transfer is happening now in this space of memetics. So you could argue that I interfaced with my phone, my phone interfaces with me. I interfaced with the books that inspire me, those books interface with me. That changes the ideas that come out of my mouth regurgitated and synthesized in the form of media that other people watch. And then maybe they send comments or ideas back to me that informs my future video. And so those billions of signals and — you know, the planet is cloaked in data and there's more information produced per second now, I think then like in all of human history combined.
[00:52:13] And so I think, you know, I'm just a grain of sand, but within my world, I take in, I put out, I take in and put out. Those feedback loops continue. I'm just trying to create self-replicating memetic structures in the form of these videos that can then live on their own. I can be sleeping at night and somebody can be having an ontological awakening watching one of my videos. That is a trip. It's the same thing that you're doing. I mean, with the enormous success that you have had with this podcast. I don't want to get sexually crude, but if we are designed to disseminate our seed, our gene. You could have sex with a thousand women, okay? And that will not disseminate your memes as effectively as the two million downloads, you get per day with your podcast. So this is your way of fulfilling your wiring to disseminate you widely.
[00:53:03] Jordan Harbinger: I'm the Genghis Khan of iTunes.
[00:53:05] Jason Silva: There you go.
[00:53:06] Jordan Harbinger: I think that's a great way to think about it. And you're right in a lot of ways when I think about this. We curate our input. We curate those around us. We shape our future selves. The show and what we teach is essentially the study of how we do this for ourselves. Why is that important for you? I mean, why is it important that while you're sleeping your ideas, your thought process, your subjective reality—
[00:53:26] Jason Silva: Yeah.
[00:53:27] Jordan Harbinger: —is infecting other people?
[00:53:28] Jason Silva: It's crazy, right?
[00:53:28] Jordan Harbinger: Why is that even necessary? Why is it important?
[00:53:31] Jason Silva: Ah, is it necessary or does it feel necessary to me?
[00:53:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right
[00:53:35] Jason Silva: The reason for getting up in the morning, the reason to be compelled with labor at creating something of value in the world, initially a value to me, but then secondarily, a value in the world is from a fire in the belly. It's from existential dread. It's from a terror of meaninglessness. It's a fear that the joy and ecstasy of yesterday means f*cking nothing the next day. Unless I've turned it into something magnificent that can still mean something days from now. There is a — I think it was Tolstoy who said that, "Man needs to find a bridge between the finite and the infinite in order to live." Ernest Becker, in The Denial of Death, says, "Men cannot live without a continuous belief in something indestructible within himself." He was bare phrasing Kafka.
[00:54:20] But what the hell do we do as mortal beings would dream of immortality? With our minds, we can ponder the infinite, right? Yeah, we're housed in heart-pumping, breath gasping, decaying bodies. So we have to respond in some creative way to rage against the darkness because otherwise, the reality of our condition, as naked rotting, conscious flesh so everything I do, is a response against meaninglessness. It's a desperate attempt to carve my name on a tree. In fact, even more than that, to turn myself inside, out in a very real way, you know?
[00:54:56] Jordan Harbinger: You obviously read a lot. How do you remember all of the things that you're — I mean, you're quoting all of this complex thought. It's not the thing that happens when you do something once and go, "Oh, cool. That will sound great in a podcast.".
[00:55:06] Jason Silva: Well, if you hang out with me a lot, you'll realize that all this stuff I quote is all related and a call, it comes back to one thing. It's how we deal with our existential condition and every quote and every other quote is some mystic or some sage or something thoughtful person who came up with an interesting set of words that gave me the chills because of the way they said it. I think I remember something because I feel like nobody has said it better than that. And that speaks so deeply to how I feel. And it makes so much sense to me, that it now becomes a part of me very much the way that especially artists who really personalize their homes, it's themselves written all over the walls. It's every book they've ever loved. It's every poster that ever moved them. I mean, we're all affirming our insides outside of ourselves in our private property, because I live on the road and I live out of my suitcase a lot of the time. I've had to do that within the contents of my mind.
[00:55:55] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:55:56] Jason Silva: Who I am is what I remember and all the references and anchor points to ground me and my ontological reality. So again, it comes back to the control thing.
[00:56:04] Jordan Harbinger: It does, always, yeah.
[00:56:05] Jason Silva: Yeah, yeah.
[00:56:06] Jordan Harbinger: You're an ontological DJ for a lot of people. Jason, thank you for helping me infect/impregnate my audience with our new subjective reality that we've created here.
[00:56:15] Jason Silva: Beautiful, bro. Thank you for having me on your podcast. Congratulations on your success and thank you to all your listeners.
[00:56:21] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much.
[00:56:22] Jason Silva: Thanks, brother. Cheers.
[00:56:26] Jordan Harbinger: We've got a preview trailer of our interview with poker star, Annie Duke, on how we can learn to make better decisions by thinking in bets instead of trying so hard to be certain all the time. Check out episode 40 here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:56:40] Annie Duke: The quality of your life is determined by the sum of two things, the quality of your decisions and luck. When something bad happens to us, we act as a skill wasn't involved at all. We just sort of pawn it off to the luck element. But when good things happen, we sort of ignore the luck element and we say that it was because of our great skill.
[00:57:00] A self-driving Uber just hit and killed the pedestrian but what I thought was really interesting was that the reaction was to suspend the testing and just to take the cars off the road, not just the Uber cars, but other self-driving vehicles. And what I didn't see were any comparisons to how self-driving vehicles did per thousand miles traveled versus the technology that we already have on the road, which has cars that are driven by humans. We know that 6,000 pedestrians die per year by regular driven.
[00:57:36] Let's say that you're on the side of the road and you've got a flat tire. And of course, what everybody's thinking of that moment is, "I have the worst life ever. Like why do these things always happen to me? I'm so unlucky. I'm so miserable." What's really interesting to me about it is like you could have gotten a promotion, like the biggest promotion of your life three days before, and you're not standing on the side of the road going, "My life is great because I just got the biggest promotion I could ever imagine." So imagine that you had this flat tire a year ago, and now I'm asking you today a year later. How much do you think that that flat tire would have affected your overall happiness over the year?
[00:58:15] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Annie Duke, including some common mistakes we make when evaluating decisions, check out episode 40 here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:58:26] I always enjoy talking to Jason. Like he's one of these guys that makes you think differently. Sometimes I just kind of go, "Okay, I don't know if I get it. And maybe I need to be on some kind of other substance or something in order to be on that plane of existence." But anything that challenges my thinking makes me think about things in a different way. I'm always down for that. And this is a guy who by his very presence can make you — can put you in that mood. And I really appreciate that about him. He's also really kind and generous and you don't necessarily expect that from somebody who's kind of a big deal TV hero, you know, so big thank you to Jason Silva. Check out his work. We will link it in the show notes.
[00:59:02] And please do use our website links if you buy books or use resources from any of the guests that you end up having to purchase or wanting to purchase. That stuff adds up. It helps support the show as well. Worksheets for the episode are in the show notes. Transcripts for this episode are in the show notes. There should be a video going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or hit me there on LinkedIn.
[00:59:26] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course. That is always free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty, right? Build those relationships before you need something from your network. You've got to strengthen that network itself. Strengthened the web. Most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribed to the course and the newsletter. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where I know you belong.
[00:59:53] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's going to vibe with this one — and I use that word very rarely, but you know, I am using it in this one — share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. Please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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