How Do We Engineer Inspiration? [PSFK NYC 2012]


Filmmaker and futurist Jason Silva explains how to see the world with new eyes and explores how the co-evolution of humans and technology is changing our expectations of ourselves.

Dan Gould
  • 10 march 2012

We’re happy to have Jason Silva as one of the speakers at our upcoming PSFK CONFERENCE NYC 2012. On March 30th the filmmaker and futurist will discuss the nature of inspiration, and how the exponential growth curves of technology are shrinking the lag time between what we can imagine and what we create.

In addition to exploring the co-evolution of humans and technology, Silva will talk about how ideas are just as real as the neurons they inhabit and the importance of competing in the marketplace of ideas. Jason Silva was recently described as “part Timothy Leary, part Ray Kurzweil, and part Neo from The Matrix.”

Much of your recent work explores the co-evolution of humans and technology. How do you see this relationship significantly changing over the next 5 years?

I think the exponential growth curves of information technology spilling over into biotech and nanotech mean two things: biology is now an information technology subject to the same radical progress of Moore’s law. Physicist Freeman Dyson predicts we will soon have the entire biosphere in the palm of our hands… imagine the possibilities: the canvas of life itself is now subject to our aesthetic design and imagination. And as Juan Enriquez tells us, now we have software that writes its own hardware!! Computers could never do that. Biology can.

With Nanotech the building blocks of matter become ours to play with– we literally become as gods, free to shape the universe. This might take a little longer than 5 years, but we’ll get there.

One of the themes of the PSFK NYC 2012 conference is “Creativity in Action.” Are there specific environments or processes that you use to foster creative thinking and novel ideas?

Tom Robbins says you can’t manufacture creativity or wonderment, but you can pull yourself out of context so dramatically that you gawk in amazement at the ubiquitous everyday wonders you’re culturally conditioned to ignore. I think this is key: To get new ideas we need to see the world with new eyes–we need to evoke a novel way of seeing things. For me that involves throwing myself into new situations. Some of the thinkers I respect the most have credited travel, walks in the park, and marijuana as creativity catalysts. Really, its anything that triggers free association and the right conceptual collision. We need disruption of the profane so that we can engage with the sacred and creative.

In past talks, you explore the idea of “engineering inspiration/epiphany and hacking the human operating system.” What is the most effective method you’ve found to create these flashes of insight?

I like the term by Steve Silberman of performing a meta cognitive hack of the human operating system– we can do this by studying how environments shape our thinking. We need to learn to perceive the feedback loops between our creative and linguistic choices and our consciousness. Rich Doyle says once we realize the extraordinary capacity we have to literally sculpt our experience, we might get a sense of Vertigo…. except that when we harness this ability we see how truly free we really are. SO YES: We can engineer AWE by studying its precursors and planning for them. My short videos at are my latest example at creating a ‘micro psychedelic’ experience using information technology instead of chemical technology, but they do the same thing: they epiphanize you by pulling you out of context and reformatting your consciousness a tad bit.

Thanks Jason!

Jason Silva / @jason_silva

Click the banner below to purchase tickets and find additional information about this year’s event.


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