Nat Geo’s Jason Silva talks Brain Games

2014-03-13 21:00
Thinus Ferreira
Madrid – Jason Silva is the brainiac behind the cleverer-than-clever, highly insightful, and fun show Brain Games on National Geographic Channel (DStv 181).

The third season just started on Thursdays at 21:00 on National Geographic Channel which invites viewers to play along with mind-boggling brain games which reveals how humans really see the world.

From having done Brain Games so far, what would you recommend or tell people as to how we can use our brains better?
One of the big things is that the brain needs to be stimulated like a muscle in order to grow. Stimulation causes fatigue just like exercise tires out your muscles. Sometimes people stay in their comfort zones. They stay in their habituated environment, they stay in their routine.

But routine is stale. Routine deadens. Routine sterilises. Anything around becomes invisible. You end up in a zombified trance state, not engaging with anything.

So I tell people get out of your comfort zone. Pull yourself out of context. Step into a different place. Get into a new situation. Immerse yourself into a new culture. Challenge yourself. Leave the comfort zone behind.

Everything good and great begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Change your cultural operating system. Get on a plane and go somewhere and meet different people.

Force yourself to realise that what you is not always what you get, where you are is not the only place you can be. Awaken yourself again.

You said that humans are gods now. Why did you say that?
I'm borrowing a line from the commercial of the movie Prometheus where there was a fake TEDtalk from the future where there was a guys saying 'We are the gods now'.

With information technologies we have transcended the limitations of the mind. With the industrial revolution we transcended the limitations of our muscles. You get on an airplane and you have to reconfigure your relationship with space and time.

When I send a SMS through a smartphone and basically using a device basically made out of plastics and metals and my thoughts travel at the speed of light, I'm engaging in a form of technologically mediated telepathy when I do an SMS.

When I make a telephone call I create a techno social wormhole between here and the other side of the planet.I get tired from crossing the street, but I can really see somebody on the other side of the world using technology I can't explain or reverse engineer.

We rely on tools that were built on the maverick innovations of thousands of people over decades - tools that no single person can built today.

That gives us super computers in our pockets. The computer in your pocket today has more computation capacity and is a million times cheaper, a million times smaller and a thousand times more powerful than just a decade ago.

So in your pocket you have a tool that a billionaire couldn't afford a hundred years ago. Think about that. A billion dollars couldn't purchase you what you have in your pocket today for R299. So that is where the metaphor "We are the gods now" comes from.

Is there a profound thought about something you didn't realise before about people?
The fact that Brain Games has been successful shows that people are hungry to learn. If you present your material in a compelling way, people are curious, people are hungry to learn, people want to understand.

As far as the people who participate, people are gullible. And when there's a camera on, they will do what you tell them about. But all the games you see we really did do them, and the results really were consistent with real lab research. So its real science - its just packaged and presented in a telegenic way.

You talk about "intergalactic ideas"?
What is intergalactic is the fact that we are creatures that with our brains, we can ponder the infinite. We can conceive of the Big Bang, we can conceive of a million years from now. We can contemplate of our sun burning out.

But we're housed in these heart-pumping, breath-gasping decaying bodies. So in a way we're godly, but we're also very creaturely. We're a nice paradox us human beings.

At the same time the innovation and creativity we're capable of is unfathomable.

Are they going to get you for an episode of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey on National Geographic Channel for the second season?
That would be great, I'd totally be a guest on that! Well my friend, Neil de Grasse Tyson is the host of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey but I would love to collaborate on something like that because I'm a fan. So who knows? Maybe if you put it out there.

Because really, you actually remind me so much of Seth Macfarlane. People know him from animation series, but when you actually just really listen to him. He's smart.

Why did you insert yourself into the Brain Games experiments?
I think the producers felt it was important to see me interact with the people and the guests, jsut to give the show a fun element also, so that I'm not just the omnipotent host in the green screen room.

We don't want Brain Games to ever feel pretentious or like we know it all. I want to be like, a fun guy who is taking you for a ride. And also I like people!

What can you say about what Brain Games has achieved so far? Does it change people?
I think it changes things for National Geographic Channel. People realise that a show can be so on brand and be so successful. There's a lot of pressure from other networks and TV channels for people to make content that's silly and that gets a lot of viewership.

The success of a lot of reality television puts a lot of pressure on TV networks.

But National Geographic Channel is swimming against the current by creating a show like Brain Games. And we're the envy now of everyone in the category and thinking how can we now do Brain Games? But they can't because they don't have us.

We achieved record record ratings for National Geographic Channel in the United States for the premiere episode and subsequent episodes, and in Australia and now we're in 172 countries. And we've only just started. And we're going to keep going.

How do you decide who to use and do you use the same kind of brain expert people?
No, different people for every episode. The cool thing is National Geographic opens a lot of doors. You say you're doing a show for National Geographic Channel and people will talk to you. They're receptive to you. And they’re really clever people.

Watch the promo trailer here:


Brain Games III is on National Geographic Channel (DStv 181) on Thursdays at 21:00