JASON SILVA | THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM | 2018


I gotta say, I’m deeply humbled to be standing on this stage today. I would like to acknowledge the heroic and courageous souls that have been sharing their stories for the last day and a half. I am jolted and shaken, but also inspired, by the capacity of the
human spirit to endure and to overcome. And I think that’s what
this is really about. In spite of impossible obstacles and impossible odds, the human spirit overcomes. That’s why I love this theme, Rising because I believe that we do
have the capacity to rise. So let me start with that. For me, it all starts with a profound passion for human creativity, a profound passion for human imagination and human ingenuity, this capacity to overcome boundaries and transcend our limits. And this, to me, has turned
into a passion for technology and innovation because I believe at its best, technology is the embodiment of human creativity in the world. I believe that at its best technology is the literalization of human imagination in the world. I believe that technology
at its best allows us to turn the human mind inside
out and impregnate the world with mind and creativity. The cognitive philosophers
David Chalmers and Andy Clark these guys describe technology
as a scaffolding of mind that we use to extend
our thoughts, our reach, and our vision. And it has always been so. If you go back 100,000 years to the savannas of Africa when early hominids first
picked up a stick on the ground and used that stick to reach a fruit that was on a really high tree branch we’ve been using our sticks,
our tools, our instruments to overcome our boundaries
and to transcend our limits. We’ve been in a symbiotic
relationship with our tools and technology since
the dawn of humankind. As the philosopher Marshall
McLuhan famously said “First, we build the tools, and then the tools build us.” Now today, we’re living in an age of exponential disruption, transformative change. The world is being upended by
technological acceleration. The acceleration itself is accelerating and we’re all feeling a sense of vertigo. We’re feeling a sense of apprehension. We’re overwhelmed by the pace of change. It’s like we can’t quite keep up. It feels like the rug is being pulled from underneath our feet. It seems to be speeding
beyond our intuition or our capacity to fully grasp. The question is, why is this? Right? Why are we living in this age of transformational disruption? And the reason for that is because technological progress, technological change, is exponential. But human beings think about
change in a linear fashion. Our intuition about change is linear. We have linear lenses, but we
live in an exponential world. And so what’s the difference between linear change and exponential change? One of my heroes, the famed
futurist Ray Kurzweil who is the head of
engineering at Google now and he wrote the book, “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.” He has a great example that he uses. It’s called the 30 steps example, but it’s a very effective way to get people to wrap their heads around
exponential change, right? So that we can start thinking exponentially about how to address the grand challenges of humanity even when they seem impossibly complex and beyond our reach. So here’s the example. If you take 30 linear steps 30 linear steps, one,
two, three, four, five by step 30, you’re at 30, right? 30 linear steps gets us to 30. That’s our intuition about change over time. That’s our instinct. That’s our wiring. That is not the world that we live in today. Now, if you take those same
amount of steps, 30 steps but you do so exponentially,
you get to a billion. 30 linear steps gets you to 30. 30 exponential steps gets you to a billion. That’s the reason the smart
phone in your pocket today is a million times cheaper, a million times smaller, and a thousand times more powerful than what used to be a $60,000,000 supercomputer that was half a building in size 40 years ago. So wrap your head around that astounding capacity, that astounding progress, right? It used to be $60,000,000 to get a supercomputer the size of this auditorium that you needed special permission to get access to 40 years ago. And in those 40 years, we’ve shrunk down to devices in our pockets a million times cheaper a million times smaller, a
thousand times more powerful. How does this change
what becomes possible? How does this change what we
can potentiate in the world what we can bring forth in the world? The folks at Singularity
University talk about how a young person in rural
Africa today with a smartphone has better communications
technology than a head of state had 25 years ago. The supercomputers to change the world are literally in everybody’s hands. What will we do with such power? What will we do with such potential? There’s a wonderful Time Magazine cover story a couple of years back. Bill Clinton was on the cover. It was called, A Case for Optimism. In his op-ed, he talked about
this United Nations study, I believe it was from 2010 that cited the cellphone as
probably the greatest invention in history to pull people out of poverty. How might the world change on the back of these exponentially-emerging technologies? Steven Johnson talks about the concept of the adjacent possible. The adjacent possible, that the perimeters of human possibility, the adjacent possible is like a shadow from
the future that hovers over the present and provides
a map of all of the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. In the next 25 years, right,
’cause these exponential trends are continuing, these smartphones
will likely shrink down to devices the size of blood cells that will go in our bodies and brains, reverse engineering us from inside out. These trends are not slowing down. Now, I travel around the world and I talk about exponential technologies to different types of audiences, and as astounding
as this progress has been people will often say,
“Okay, fine, I buy that because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the computers shrink down. I’ve seen the cellphones get more powerful in real time. I feel the vertigo, but I’ve seen it, so I believe it. What about the world of flesh and concrete, the world in which we dwell? Certainly that’s not subject to this exponential transformation and disruption.” But it turns out that software
really is eating the world. Biology’s becoming an information technology and the physical environment is becoming an information technology. So let’s start with biology. Biotechnology means mastering the information processes of biology because it turns out
that we are made of code. It turns out that we are made of language. We are linguistic all the way down. We are alphabetic to the core. Our genes are little software programs. Our capacity to program
biology, to program our genes away from disease and away from aging is accelerating exponentially. Gene sequencing, the speed
at which we can sequence our genes is accelerating
three times faster than these exponential numbers I’ve talked about before, three times faster than Moore’s law. How might this change
what it means to be human? The XPRIZE Foundation recently had a prize, a $10,000,000 prize, to the first team around the world that could create a medical tricorder, a smartphone-sized device employing lab-on-a-chip technologies that could
diagnose you better than 10 board-certified doctors. Imagine deploying that in a rural and disconnected parts of the world. How does this change healthcare? How does this change access to diagnostic tools? Larry Page from Google created Calico, California life extension company, a software company for biology. What happens when biology becomes a programmable medium? Freeman Dyson, the physicist,
envisions a near future where a new generation of
artists will write genomes with the fluency that Blake
and Byron wrote verses. But of course, technology is a double-edged sword. I don’t have to tell you guys that. These tools and technologies
could be co-opted to nefarious ends as well, right? With synthetic biology, somebody could create a pathogen that kills a billion people. That’s also true. And so how do we use these technologies to make the world better, to amplify creativity and possibility rather than allow these tools to fall into the hands of the wrong person? Nanotechnology, nanotechnology
is advancing exponentially will allow us to pattern atoms, the building blocks of the physical world, the way we pattern ones and zeros when we create digital things. So when the physical world, on the back of nanotechnology becomes a programmable medium, we will potentially be living inside the condensation of human imagination, for sure. The seminal book on nanotechnology is called Engines of Creation. That’s literally what
nanotechnology will allow us to do. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s book, Abundance: Why the Future Will Be Better Than You Think talks about how technology is a resource-liberating mechanism and scarcity is contextual. And on the back of
nanotechnology, entire notions of human scarcity disappear because we can manipulate atoms and make anything we want. You could probably imagine the nightmare scenarios of that as well. Artificial intelligence continues
to advance exponentially. Non-biological intelligence, distributed intelligence, non-biological cognition, which in symbiosis with human intelligence,
turns us essentially into a cyborg species, right? The mind as it exists today emerges in the feedback loops between brains, tools, and environments. So we have a responsibility to create tools and environments that will augment our capacity to improve ourselves. The idea of self-determination,
on crack, to be honest. So these three overlapping revolutions, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence promise to upend the human condition. We could potentially address the grand challenges of humanity on the back of these exponential tools. Things that seem impossible
are actually within reach. But it’s up to each and every
one of you, to be honest, to make sure that happens. The consciousnesses of
those who employ these tools is what will determine if we
engender a utopia beyond time or if we manifest our worst impulses and nightmares in the world. We could disclose heaven or we
could disclose hell on Earth. Now, I’m a video guy. I’m a storyteller. I choose optimism. I choose to provide a
narrative of what might be of what we may engender,
if we have the will, if we exercise the agency and the abiding belief that we
can make this a better world. I like the ideas of Steven Pinker. I loved his TED Talk,
the Myths of Violence. I found it reassuring to learn that in spite of all the fucked up shit in the world we’re actually less violent that we’ve ever been as a species and that the chances of a man dying at the hands of another man today are the lowest than they’ve ever been, ever. We must not succumb to despair. We must not become fatalistic. We have a lot to do, right? Justice doesn’t reign
supreme in the world. We should all feel a faint disquiet when we get up in the morning if we’re not doing something to make this a better world. Yet at the same time, there
has been astounding progress. Things are tilting towards the better. We must not forget this either. I’d like to show you a
video now that celebrates these emerging technologies and what they might assist us in bringing forth. So if you can please play the
first video, The Future of Us. So let’s talk about the future of us. What does that even
mean, the future of us? It’s a look at what comes next. It’s a look at what might be. ‘Cause today, exponentially-emerging technologies are transforming what’s possible. They are helping us overcome, transcend even biological limitations. The very rules of what it is
to be human are up for grabs. We’re rewriting the software
of life with biotechnology. We’re turning matter into a programmable medium with nanotechnology. We’re creating sentient minds with artificial intelligence that are not bound by the limitations of biology. These three overlapping revolutions, GNR, genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics together will be leveraged to lead us towards a black hole-like,
impossible-to-fathom singularity. It’s like staring into the sun, a moment of a rousing symphonic climax when all of mind, leveraged and networked together, transcends its biological origins and we become something more. People worry about the AI’s and the them. Well, as Kurzweil says, that’s gonna be us. The future of us is ours to dream up. You know, Marshall McLuhan used to say, “It’s always been the artist who realizes that the future is the present and uses his work to prepare the grounds for it.” Seeing what becomes possible on the back of these technologies is gonna force us to make a cognitive leap, right? Once a mind is stretched by a new idea, it never returns to its original position. So the challenge becomes to transcend, the been there’s and done that’s of the adult mind and to see the world as if
through the eyes of a child. What might we achieve?
What might we engender? I could geek out for hours about these technologies, but if we don’t employ these technologies to impact the world in a positive way
then it’s all for nothing. As long as suffering exists in the world, then to be honest, it’s all for nothing. But that’s the point, right? Exponential progress also means exponential opportunity, exponential hope, right? We can turn our passing
illuminations into abiding light. In Silicon Valley, the mythology of the singularity envisions a future where humans transcend biology where indefinite lifespans range supreme, where scarcity doesn’t exist anymore where the human imagination is fully unbounded, all of us living in virtual realities that are freeing us from the
limits of space and time. I mean, I could talk forever about the singularity, but there are problems right now that need to be addressed. How might each of us impact our
community, impact the world? Even neurochemically, we get rewarded for making positive social change. It’s called the helper’s high. Our brain rewards us for altruism. Our brain rewards us for extending our hands towards those in need. Perhaps the answer to the
epidemic of anxiety and despair of our age is actually to
extend our compassion, right? Empathy rarely extends
beyond our line of sight. But these technologies at the very least could extend our line of sight. Look at how much more there is to do and look how much more power we have to do it. I remember, I came across this notion of redefining the billionaire. In the age of exponential technologies, everybody wants to create the next start up that makes them a billionaire and it’s cool to be ambitious, I suppose, but how much more existentially relevant would the term “becoming a billionaire be” if we redefined it to mean a billionaire in the age of exponential technology as a somebody who positively touches a billion people? Much more interesting. You probably still make a billion dollars if that’s your thing. But a reason to get up in the morning is the possibility for that kind of scale and that kind of impact that is possible on the
back of these technologies. To positively touch a billion people. You all have that fire in the belly. You’re all here because you give a shit. You each have the power. You should each engender the
ambition to positively touch a billion minds that resolves
our existential paradox finite beings who want to
make a dent in the universe. Here’s your chance. This next video, which was shot with a smartphone, to exemplify the idea that in our pockets are the tools to impact millions, is called the “Captains of Spaceship Earth.” Please play the next video. We live in a world of exponential technological advancements. What this literally means, that we have new construction kits for our reality. New tools with which to probe at the adjacent possible. So, consider the implications, right. As Marshall McLuhan used to say, “First, we build the tools, and then the tools build us.” We are designed by what we have designed. There are these feedback loops of mind tool and world that radically redefined our boundaries, that radically transform what it means to be human. To be human today is to crisscross the skies. To be human today is to create technosocial wormholes, mind to mind communication that overcomes the limits of time and space, and so what do we do? Well, we need to radically reach out to one another in ways that we haven’t before. There’s a great line that says, “Empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight.” In other words, this out of
sight, it is out of mind. But if anything, these wireless communication technologies are radically extending our line of sight. They provide anthological maps of the real. They’re giving us the astronaut overview effect. We are seeing the big picture, we are seeing that we are the captains of spaceship Earth. And what shall we do? We need to extend our hands to one another. We’ve never had such tools to overcome all of the limitations of our humanity. We have the power, we have the
will, we have the capacity. The creative capacity
to overcome our limits. And so today, billions of us linking to one another, creating a global node, a global brain. What is the new definition of billionaire? The new definition of billionaire is he who will positively affect the lives of a billion people. He or she who will reach out and say, “I will positively affect the lives of a billion people.” This should be our goal. This is our responsibility. Here’s our chance. Believe it’s possible, guys. The future of freedom, it means leveraging these exponential technologies to make this a better world. The future of freedom is the future of creativity, the future of our tools, the future of social impact the future of positively affecting a billion people. But you know what it also is? The future of consciousness, the future of cognitive liberty, the freedom to dissolve mental barriers, the freedom
to transcend the limits of our own consciousness
without fear of persecution. One of the most exciting
areas of disruptive research these days is the use
of psychedelic compounds to address the epidemic of imprisonment of anxiety and depression. The 800,000 suicides a year,
that according to the United Nations is a greater number
of lives lost than what we’re losing from armed conflict and
natural disasters combined. You saw Rick Doblin speak yesterday, no doubt, one of the heroes in this space. And for those of you
who are not fully aware of what becomes possible on the back of technologies of ecstasy as I call them, for the future of freedom please watch this closing video. And thank you for your attention. Please play the last video. There’s a lot of excitement
in the media these days about the clinical potential, the application, the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, mind altering chemicals. Recent clinical trials out of Johns Hopkins University led by Roland Griffiths as well as NYU led by Stephen Ross have
found some striking results. They’ve done studies with people suffering from treatment resistant, depression people who are addicted to cigarettes and haven’t able to quit, people suffering from end-of-life anxiety stemming from, let’s say a cancer diagnosis. I mean real, intense treatment resistant anxiety and depression. And what they found is that a single guided session, in a controlled environment, with carefully screened patients and trained therapists
to guide the experience these substances effectively catalyzed a mystical experience of transformative and lasting change allowing patients to have seemingly spiritual divine encounters with the cosmos. And psychedelics seem to do this by disrupting something neuroscientists called the default mode network. In many ways, the autobiographical ego. Default mode network is like the conductor of the mind. People suffering from depression and anxiety tend to have an overly active default mode network a terrible tyrant, a nagging voice in their head, excessive rumination in self-consciousness that clouds their judgment and allows them to instead collapse into a black hole that not even light can get out of. And most of the time, we’ve been treating this by numbing the symptoms. Giving people drugs that zombify them but don’t provide them a real lasting cathartic value. What psychedelics seem to do through inducing the mystical experience by silencing the broadcast of the ego is allowing people to go deep and address their soul sickness from a meaning making perspective. The idea that these are substances that are like microscopes for the cosmos of our minds, telescopes for the universe within our consciousness. And then going in there through these guided sessions, allows us to re-contextualize the self as a marvelous conduit through a timeless hole from which molecules and meanings flow. And so what happens after this? Patients come out of the experience no longer afraid of death, no longer depressed quitting seemingly a 30-year
cigarette habit over night. I mean, these experiences
shape and transform us for the better and have a lasting quality that is beyond anything we’ve
never seen in psychiatry providing experts with a kind
of revolution of the mind that a revolution for dealing
with mental health in this country which to hey,
is at an epidemic level. So my friends, be excited,
fund this research put your support behind
the therapeutic potential of psychedelic research. Thank you so much guys for your attention. Blessings to all of you. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you.

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