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Jason Silva Talks Psychedelics, Biotech, and Brain Games

Jason Silva, host of National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games, talks the promises of psychedelics in neuroscience, the excitement of biotech, and more.

National Geographic Channel

National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games is back this season to continue dropping our jaws and answering our most perplexing questions with host Jason Silva at the reins. In case it’s not already in your TV repertoire, the Emmy®-nominated Brain Games takes viewers behind-the-scenes of our brains, showing the “wow” behind the “why” to help us make sense of the science. This season of Brain Games promises to be even more mind-bending and illusion-shattering than the last, delving into topics like the seven deadly sins, hidden senses, bad behavior, and more. Sounds complicated. But lucky for us, Silva presents an assortment of interactive games and experiments designed to reveal and explain the surprising inner workings of the brain.

Silva strikes the perfect balance between philosophy and technology by weaving time-tested ideas with engaging new theories. This is precisely why he has the large following he does. Silva has dedicated his life to making people think differently about the human mind and evolution of mankind. Fortunately for Silva fans—or those who are simply curious about exploring their consciousness—Brain Games is returning on Sunday, February 14 at 9/8c. The Daily Beast caught up with him to talk more about what viewers can expect next season, ayahuasca, and what’s on his 2016 reading list.

If you could describe the next season of “Brain Games” in one word (for singularity’s sake), what would it be? And why?

Season five in one word is IMMERSIVE. The show takes us deeper into specific brain topics than ever before.

Previously, you’ve explored the mind’s imagination, perception, positive thinking, and much more. Can you give fans a preview of what you’ll be covering next season? And without giving too much away, explain why these subjects are important to you.

In our episode called “The God Brain,” we explore the neuroscience of religious experience. We travel to Jerusalem and look at how our experiences of “the divine” can be mediated by scripture, architecture and psychedelics.

Another episode, “Brains Behaving Badly,” takes us to New Orleans to look at the seven deadly sins and how they each play out in the brain.

The point is that every episode takes us to a location that is related to the particular theme, making the show a deeper journey, more immersive than before. It’s awesome.

What do you want viewers to gain from next season?

The goal is for viewers to have a deeper understanding of how their brain “creates” the reality in which they live — the empowerment of realizing that they can change that reality.

Now on to some personal questions: Describe a daily ritual.

The morning is for analytical; the afternoon is for creative. I start with a morning workout, double espresso, emails until 1 p.m., and then an afternoon activity that induces divergent, associational thinking.

Who influences you the most?

I’m quite inspired by the founders of the Flow Genome Project, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler. They’ve reverse engineered the secret to ecstatic states — the psychology, pharmacology, technology, and neurobiology of flow.

What is one problem you think all humans should be focused on solving together this year?

I think, for one, we should upgrade politics. We need to focus on investing more heavily in creating software algorithms that solve real-world problems. Science, technology, philosophy — that’s where it’s at.

What books are on your 2016 reading list?

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly and Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal.

Recently, the first legal and public ayahuasca church found a home in the state of Washington. Do you think we’ll see more mainstream acceptance of people using psychedelics to help with a spiritual awakening in the near future?

In my opinion, absolutely, yes. I believe this is probably some of the most exciting research going on right now in the field of psychotherapy. The work that MAPS.org is doing with MDMA and people with PTSD is amazing. We’re all afflicted with the human condition, we are all neurotic, we are all mortal. I think any tool that helps us recontextualize that situation is going to be very useful. Socrates is believed to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and psychedelics are amplifiers of human consciousness to be used carefully, creatively, and responsibly.

Finally, is there one piece of technology that you think is underrated today?

People don’t talk enough about the promise of biotechnology. It’s going to change our lives for the better in ways that are difficult to wrap our heads around. We are alphabetic beings all the way down — we are made of code and we can now manipulate that code.

Catch the new season of Brain Games on Sunday, at 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel.