Millennials are said to be the least religious generation yet – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t questioning things and seeking more. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 46% of young adults say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least once a week. And like generations before us, 55% of young people say they think about the meaning and purpose of life on a weekly basis.
These spiritual and philosophical explorations – ones that have become increasingly unmoored from organized religion, and instead driven by science and technology – have found a torchbearer in Jason Silva. Silva, the Venezuelan-American host of National Geographic’s top-rated, Emmy-nominated series Brain Games, is somewhat of a contemporary philosopher – or as he describes himself, a “wonder junkie” who “relishes cognitive ecstasy.”
For the last several years, 35 year-old Silva has been carving out a name for himself with his thought-provoking viral videos and eloquent rants on subjects ranging from evolution, to technology, human behavior, creativity, and reality. He’s a refreshing counterpoint to a cultural zeitgeist that is often rife with ironic posturing; Jason is all earnestness, all breathless, boundless excitement about the future’s potential.
Silva’s newest project, Origins: The Journey Of Humankind, premiering March 6th, 9/8c on Nat Geo, takes us back in time to pivotal moments that have fueled our very own evolution.
I had the chance to pick his brain about religious stereotypes in Latinos, his role as a Latino thought leader in these politically charged times, and how growing up bilingual helps shape your creativity and potential. Here’s what he had to say.
As a Futurist and advocate for technological singularity, when did these topics first interest you? What inspired you?
I am fascinated by technology – the idea of technology as the embodiment of human creativity and imagination. Using our tools to radically extend our limits. The Singularity is a metaphor for when things truly phase-change. I came across the idea in Ray Kurzweil’s book and it changed me forever. He was an inspiration.
Latino culture is often stereotyped as staunchly religious, creating restrictive social expectations for those who drift from a specific understanding of “acceptable” spirituality. As a modern advocate for existentialism, how do you view the future relationship of young Latinos to spirituality, especially as contemporary society becomes more secular?
I had no problem with this. I grew up in a secular Jewish household where art and ideas were our religions. I’ve done my best to lead by example to anyone who is hungry for bigger questions and freedom from dogma.
You’ve made a couple of videos speaking about “how being multicultural + bilingual leads to more fluid creativity.” As a Venezuelan, having grown up bilingually, can you give examples from your personal experience?
Being open to multiple perspectives and world views heightens creativity. You’re less rigid in your opinions because you can see things from many angles. Language sculpts perception, so speaking more than one language makes you privy to multiple modes of perception.
What advice do you have for Latinos who grew up outside of their homeland and may feel disconnected from their roots? How do you suggest they maximize this potential you speak of?
We are all humans. I recommend a phase-change in perspective. What the astronauts call “the overview effect.” We need to see things through a global lens. Latinos should not feel separated, they should feel they are integral flavors of the human experience.
What impact do you want to have in Latino communities in these trying political times?
I want people to aim higher than ever. All of us can make an impact – Latinos should feel empowered to make a dent, to make a difference!
And as a final thought for our readers who seek wisdom, what question would you have them ask themselves?
Ask yourself: WHAT MAKES LIFE MEANINGFUL IN SPITE OF YOU BEING MORTAL?