Jason Silva is the Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic Channel’s #1 rated and Emmy-nominated series, Brain Games, seen in over 100 countries. “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age” was how The Atlantic described television personality, filmmaker and philosopher Silva, who has also been described as “part Timothy Leary, part Ray Kurzweil, and part Neo from ‘The Matrix.’”
A self-professed wonderjunkie, Silva is the creator of the web series SHOTS OF AWE, micro-documentaries exploring creativity, innovation, the co-evolution of human and technology, futurism, metaphysics, existentialism and the human condition.
Silva’s work has been featured in The Economist, Vanity Fair, Forbes and Wired, among many others.
Question: How do you encourage people to use the Internet for intelligent content?
Jason Silva: Our head of programming, David Newman who in very many ways has become a mentor, to us, he used to say and I love this, "The high road is wide open, the low road is crowded." Because we were the last independent cable network in a world of media conglomerates I think it freed us to seek exceptionality in a way that others perhaps governed by the bottom line couldn't do it. We could start from scratch and therefore that allowed for a space of elevating the conversation. I also think the people were hungry for that. I think reality television has fried some people's brains and I think people were ready for something of more significance for real conversation about this global enterprise.
It's very progressive, people that really are socially conscientious about things that matter to them, and you get a lot of green eco, sort of renewable energy, type of content, people exploring these things, a lot of stuff on politics, unique perspectives on politics around the world, a lot of stuff from the Middle East. I remember a piece of content for example that, you know, one of the very first piece of contents that ever aired on Current was this piece about underground parties seen in Tehran in Iran where this filmmaker, Yazmin showcased how kids have to party in secret hiding from their religious police ‘cause it's very much a theocracy so it's kinda like the religious values are enforced onto people. So you can't drink, you can't party, you can't really... and so it had to be done in hiding.
So here is something that you don't really see... hear about in CNN where you're talking about all these crazy, you know, nuclear, the possibility of nuclear proliferation there, things like that. But here you're seeing like regular kids just trying to have a good time and they're being forced to do it underground. I think it kinda, it reaches people in that demographic here in the States. I think also seeing the election of Obama, I think you've seen a generation of people that are empowered and feel empowered and want to have a say in the world. And I think that that has risen up from the ashes of crap that has been on a lot of television recently.
Question: Do people prefer to consume low-brow content?
Jason Silva: We try to cover the world of young adults and their voice, and from their point of view we tried to do so in a bold and reverend fashion. We don't dump things down for our audience. In fact, even the stuff that is hilarious on the network is jhighly intelligent. We have an animated series called Super News which kind of mocks pop culture in a brilliant fashion.
We have a show that's sort of a comic indictment of the media called Infomania which also is very clever. I mean I mean I think that You can appeal to mass consciousness and pop culture. I mean it doesn't have to be high brow subject matter but it can be tackled even if it's low brow subject matter or mainstream subject matter.
We did an hour, a secular hour exploration of religion and spirituality. You know, if you saw the recent cover of Newsweek it says, the end of Christian America as far as its influence on politics in many ways, which I think is a very good thing. I think religion has no place in politics and so we did an exploration of the way that some people in different religious communities are trying to reach out to larger and larger groups that are no longer identifying themselves of any religion.
Me and Max always liked to have a spirited intellectual discussion if possible, but do so in a way that's fun and natural, and real, and it's the same that we would be having if we were having a cocktail at the bar.
Recorded on: April 14, 2009