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19 November 2019

“Awe and wonder” turn uncertainty into opportunity, film-maker tells Education City Speaker Series

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Award-winning TV personality Jason Silva says reimagining our lives is vital in an era of “real-time change”

TV personality, film-maker, and futurist Jason Silva has urged young people to embrace “awe”, as his appearance at Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series saw him tackle themes ranging from education and technology to the human condition.

The host of National Geographic’s Emmy-nominated science reality series Brain Games spoke about the need to constantly reimagine and reinvent how we live our lives in an era of “real-time change and time-lapse technology” during his public talk at Qatar National Library, co-hosted by global education think-tank WISE’s Doha Learning Days experiential learning festival.

And he told the audience: “The right attitude in an age of exponential, rapid change is to play the infinite game – not one where we have short-term wins and losses, but one where we keep the game going, keep innovation going, and keep reinvention going.”

The Education City Speaker Series sees Qatar Foundation brings together experts in a range of fields to share their experiences, ideas, and perspectives with the community of Qatar, and gives people a chance to interact with and quiz its guests. Silva – also known for his YouTube series Shots of Awe – follows in the footsteps of speakers from the fields of health, innovation, entrepreneurship, sport, and media, as well as senior figures from the United Nations.

“One of the entry points I use to educate myself is awe and wonder,” he said during his talk. “In the face of rapid change, it’s very easy for the brain to get agitated, because with change comes uncertainty. But exponential change doesn’t just mean exponential uncertainty – it means exponential opportunity.

“To see this, you need to surrender to awe – allow it to stretch your model of the world and obliterate your sense of ‘been there and seen that’, of jadedness and fear. These moments of awe and wonder leave you with an afterglow that has a host of cognitive benefits, such as increased wellbeing and compassion. They take you out of autopilot and remind yourself that the territory of the world is much more vast than your own map.”

We have always had technology that has been radically disruptive. But today, what’s different is that we are living in an age of exponential change.

Jason Silva

Silva described technology and innovation as a way of “turning the human mind inside out”, saying: “They are an extension of creativity and our mind, but that also raises a lot of challenges about how we steer these massive extensions of mind and in which direction we push them forward.

“Technology and innovation have always been world-changing. We have always had technology that has been radically disruptive. But today, what’s different is that we are living in an age of exponential change.

“In the past, innovation accrued over many generations. You lived your life in a world that didn’t change very much. Today, change happens in real-time. We are now living in an age of time-lapse technology, so it’s even more urgent that we reconfigure and reimagine how we do things.”

In his talk, Silva emphasized that people should not feel that humanity has “seen and done it all before”, and instead “redirect ourselves from the lethargy of the past toward the wonders of what is to come”.

Education is important in the sense of technical knowledge, but it is also about teaching us how to live.

Jason Silva

And he said: “It all begins with mystery, and the search not just for answers, but better questions - seekers are people who have come alive and been defined by what they are looking for, and what the world needs is more people who have come alive.

“Education is important in the sense of technical knowledge, but it is also about teaching us how to live. Life exists in individual moments, and it is up to us to make sure those moments are vital and interconnected and grand, and to make a masterpiece out of our lives – one that we would live again and again if we could.”

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Taking questions from the audience, Silva also spoke of the importance of finding meaning and purpose in life, saying: “We are meaning-making and meaning-seeking creatures – we can survive many days without food, a few days without water, but not even an hour without hope.

“With material success and economic abundance comes a whole set of things we need to address, such as ‘what is the meaning of my life’, ‘what is the meaning of my job if it doesn’t inspire me in the way I want it to’? It puts new pressures and new burdens on us, but I am convinced we can address them, because we are problem-solvers – and that is what we do.”

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