Jason Silva is an apostle of the future and he’s looking to make converts. The young host on Al Gore’s cable channel, Current TV, is also a burgeoning filmmaker. His upcoming documentary, Turning Into Gods aims to get its audience believing in the promise of technology, to spread a sense of techno-optimism. The documentary will follow Silva as he interviews the leading minds of our day, and seeks to understand (and revel) in the vast potential of the near future. I had a chance to talk with Silva and get the inside track on the vision behind Turning Into Gods. Check out the trailer for the film below.
Turning Into Gods is the latest in a recent string of movies that seeks to bring the concepts behind the Technological Singularity into the mainstream conscious. Earlier we saw Barry Ptolemy’s take on futurist Ray Kurzweil in Transcendent Man, and Kurzweil presented his own vision in the recent film based on his best selling book The Singularity Is Near. Each of those documentaries was packed with amazing interviews with the top minds in the fields of AI, robotics, genetics, and longevity. What will make Turning Into Gods any different, or even better?
The biggest selling point behind Silva’s film seems to be Silva himself. He has what few other Singularity-minded film makers possess: pop-culture credentials. Current TV has increased his mainstream exposure, he’s signed with CAA (the top talent agency in LA), and he’s been featured in GAP campaigns, news segments, and countless interviews. Silva sees the upcoming film as a journey, and wants the audience to piggy back on his experience, learning as he learns. His youthful exuberance for the future is sure to draw many in:
There should be no doubt, however, that Silva is making this film for a reason. As he told me, “I may represent the audience on occasion, but I have an agenda.” That agenda seems to be to awaken humanity’s hope and optimism for a future that will be shaped by ever accelerating technologies. He wants to “appeal to the little child inside all of us that says, ‘wow!”
And what pushes Silva to his own “wow” moments? From our conversation I would mostly say genetics. Craig Venter, with his recent successes in writing the genetic code of living organisms, tops Silva’s list of necessary interviewees. He quotes Freeman Dyson: “In the future…a new generation of artists will be writing genomes the way that Blake and Byron wrote verses.” In fact, it is the idea that new technologies may allow for the convergence of art and science that seems to most easily open the flood gates of Silva’s flowing optimism. He has written about it in Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post, and presented on the power of art direction at Humanity+.
Contrasting Silva’s techno-optimism are what he calls the “bio-luddites”, those that seek to oppose the advance of (biological) science in the name of fundamentalism. Silva calls the reactionary response to the promise of technology the “anti-viagara of the human-mind”. Even the title of the film, Turning Into Gods, can be seen as a defiance of this opposition of technology born out of religiosity or fear.
Of course, not everyone who is uncomfortable with the idea of shaping our DNA like poetry is a bio-luddite. Like so many documentarians seeking to explain the Singularity, Silva is hoping to make more friends than enemies. He wants to pull in those on the cusp, those are wavering between believing in the positive aspects of technology and giving into fear. To help us all “get over our cosmic inferiority complex,” and look towards the limitless potential of humanity.
Despite Silva’s well-formed vision about the future, Turning Into Gods is still very much a work in progress. He plans to continue shooting through the end of this summer and possibly beyond. While he has “hours of footage” of time with Ray Kurzweil and Aubrey de Gray from his previous short film The Immortalists (see below), his list of possible upcoming interviewees is still very long: Craig Venter, Peter Diamandis, Andrew Hessel, Barry Ptolemy, Chris Anderson…and so on. Funding for Turning Into Gods comes from related projects on Current TV, The Immortalists, and Silva himself. To leverage his limited budget for all its worth, Silva will be looking for collaborators, finding ways to crowd-source the work as needed. The pop-savvy Silva also has plans for generating audience interest by releasing a string of teasers to promote viral marketing.
There are days when I don’t believe the Technological Singularity will ever happen, and days when I think it’s just around the corner. Yet since I first encountered the concept a few years ago I have been unable to completely dismiss it from my thoughts. The Singularity, like Silva’s optimism, is infectious, and movies are the ideal carriers. Whether or not Turning Into Gods succeeds, I’m growing confident that more and more filmmakers will be willing to try to bring the concept of the Singularity into the mainstream. Will Silva be the ambassador that delivers techno-optimism into pop culture? Too early to tell, but he certainly has the potential to make it happen.
Those who want to get a taste of Jason Silva’s filmmaking style should check out The Immortalists, a micro-documentary on the end to aging. It’s here for you in its entirety:
[image and video via Jason Silva]