How Can Philosophy Play A Larger Role In Media Experiences?
Jason Silva's 'The Beginning of Infinity' video series provides a philosophical perspective on the co-evolution of technology and human beings.
We initially came across the work of Jason Silva at The Economist’s ‘World In 2012’ conference. His video The Beginning of Infinity was a unique moment especially since it was sandwiched between panels and podium talks. In the videos, Jason presents a fresh philosophical perspective on what is happening to humanity today, focusing on understanding how technology and the human race have evolved alongside each other.
PSFK caught up with Jason and took a deep dive into the thinking and inspiration behind this ambitious project, which is comprised of a series of short videos that are visually impactful and philosophically provocative.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela and attended film school at the University of Miami, where I majored in film and philosophy. This double major nurtured two of my defining attributes: firstly, the desire to have a life long love affair with big philosophical ideas and secondly, a belief that media arts and film Are the most effective mediums in which to probe, expound and ruminate on these ideas.
From 2005 to 2011, I hosted a show on Al Gore’s new cable network, Current, and the network’s focus on short form documentaries further fueled my love of storytelling in new/experimental ways. My interest in the future of technology and futurism evolved from a fascination with metaphysical science fiction, and wondering whether these heady ideas could ever be anchored in real developments made possible by exponential technological progression.
Why did you decide to work on this project?
When I came across Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near, I began to understand the unlimited creative potential of the human species, to not just transcend our biological limitations by upgrading our biological software, but also to impregnate the universe with intelligence. The exponential growth curves of information technology spilling over into the domestication of biotechnology and nanotechnology coupled with the possibilities of artificial intelligence were dazzlingly seductive.
I couldn’t get enough, and often felt that these ideas were bigger than their usual dry, academic packaging. Where did aesthetic presentation fall into this? And so I decided to launch my own answer to this question. The Beginning of Infinity video, shown recently at The Economist World in 2012 Conference and The Singularity Summit, is part of a series of short form “ecstatic meditations” exploring this co-evolution of humans and technology that simultaneously epiphanizes and inspires. In collaboration with NotThisBody, the goal was to animate and reverse engineer rapturous awe. Think of them as shots of philosophical espresso.
Tell us about some of the other writers and thinkers that inspired this work?
I am inspired by techno-philosophers like Kevin Kelly, Steven Johnson, Ray Kurzweil, Bucky Fuller, Timothy Leary and many others. I also find the TED Conference to be endlessly fascinating.
What is the singular message you want people to get out of experiencing your work?
I want people to be ‘epiphanized’ by the videos and experience the ecstasy of revelation. The videos are meant to induce the best kind of psychedelic experience: the kind that leaves elicits catharsis and transformation of consciousness for the better.
Philosophy seems to be something that people feel they can do without. What are your thoughts on the current state of philosophy? How does The Beginning of Infinity frame philosophy?
I think philosophy is actually erotic, sexy and beautiful — but, like many things, it depends on how you approach it. Timothy Leary once said, “in the information age, you don’t teach philosophy, you perform it.” I find this idea endlessly inspiring, for it implies that philosophy is about ‘philosophizing,’ its a a verb, not a noun. He and Bucky Fuller came to refer to themselves as Performing Philosophers, a term I borrow heavily when describing the style of these videos I have been producing with NotThisBody.
What was the process you went through to come up with these captivating, thought-provoking visuals and animations?
I scoured the web for along time to find examples of transcalar imagery: showing the nano and the galactic and then aiming to juxtapose these images together in combinatorial mashup of sorts. Then I connected with my future collaborator Marija Coneva, an editor and video artist who seemed to intrinsically understand my thinking process. We decided to partner on this series of shorts and 2 installments in, the results couldn’t be greater.