Jason Silva: performance philosopher extraordinaire

I recently stumbled upon the work of Jason Silva, performance philosopher. What is “performance philosophy,” you ask? One way to look at it is the revitalization of philosophy through short, powerful videos–each about three minutes. Some have described them as “movie trailers for ideas.”

At first I was a bit skeptical. Philosophy is the accumulation of wisdom through contemplation and critical thinking, right? These activities are neither quick nor flashy. How much philosophy can you possibly squeeze in three minutes? Then I watched his videos, and I was amazed. Jason Silva does a masterful job of weaving together audio, visuals, and ideas from some of the world’s foremost thinkers into a compelling narrative that supports a powerful philosophical idea.

Watch the below video, and you’ll see what I mean. Starting with a quote by Einstein, Silva weaves in evolution, spirituality, and astrophysics before ending with a quote by John Keats. Combined with stellar presentation, “The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck” will probably leave you a bit awestruck yourself.

Another favorite video of mine is “Radical Openness” from TEDGlobal 2012. It’s breathtaking to watch how easily Silva leaps from idea to idea between evolution, technology, and the arts.

As enlightening and awesome as these videos are, I do wonder if they make a lasting impact on viewers. For example, are people inspired to become philosophers or to create awesome experiences themselves? Do they aspire to become scientists and technologists to usher in the next era of mankind? This isn’t a criticism of the videos as much as a musing on human nature. We live in a world where people go from one exciting thing to another. Is it possible that people get so desensitized to stimulus that they become completely passive–waiting impatiently for the next big thing instead of making it happen themselves?

That would be a shame because as awesome as his videos are, Jason Silva would likely be the first to tell you that they pale in comparison to his first epiphany. In short, there is no substitute for experience. So enjoy his videos, but once suitably inspired, embark on your own road to awe.

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