StarTalk Live: Building the Future

Post Date: 9 December 2012

Listen now:

Season 3, Episode 22

Credit: © 2012 Stacey David Severn, All rights reserved.

On November 27th, 2012, StarTalk Live brought a little science to the world of dollars and cents at the Business Insider IGNITION conference. Now you’re invited to hear astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, comic co-host Eugene Mirman and guest futurists Jason Silva and Melissa Sterry answer questions that lie at the intersection of technology, human biology and urban planning. Will bio-ware and nanotechnology allow humans to reprogram our biology? Can smart-materials, adaptive structures and sensor nets help city planners and policy makers create smart cities that adapt to environmental change the way forests do? Are we really approaching a “technological singularity” of emerging super-intelligence beyond which events cannot be predicted – and has humanity actually experienced one before?

Eugene Mirman, comedian

Jason Silva, futurist
Melissa Sterry, futurist

Segment 1:
The future of space exploration, and robots and machines as extensions of the human mind.
The Future is Now, The Offspring
Reach for the Stars,

Segment 2:
Bionics and bio-mimicry, taking design from nature, the singularity, transportation, eliminating the banal.
Bionic, Christina Aguilera
Travellin Man, Mos Def

Segment 3:
Smart cities of tomorrow.
This City, Patrick Stump, featuring Lupe Fiasco
Empire State of Mind, Alicia Keys and JayZ

Segment 4:
Asteroid impacts, hurricanes, geo-engineering.
Eve of Destruction, Screaming Jets (cover)
Orbital, Impact (The Earth is Burning)

Segment 5:
Altering geography, terraforming Earth, unintended consequences, when is the transformation coming?
Changing, The Airborne Toxic Event

  • Matt Sampson

    Melissa Sterry has an extremely hot accent.

  • Tom h

    Thanks so much for this.

  • Andres Orozco

    I really enjoyed this! Not believing in free will, the idea of technology just being a product of our naturally robotic brains brings me a pleasing smile.

  • trueartgirl

    This was totally awesome!!!!! I hope we see smart cities in the US soon…we seem to be lagging behind.

  • James

    Thank You!!! Love the show =D

  • Rok

    You should really do a segment on fusion energy and ITER, which is being built right now. You could also mention that the US was almost not part of that.

  • Murad

    I think that for this kind of show the most appropriate person (today) to speak is Jacque Fresco, just because when you are talking about the future you need to “see” it as a system (planetary system) and here we heard about some partial solutions, which of course sound ridiculous (not that they are)

  • Edis Tireli

    My god words flew out of Jason’s mouth like a slot machine.

  • Sean Collins

    I love that Jason Silva quoted Louis CK at 16:50

    • mrbrightside3737

      Odd that Jason knows hundreds of names that he quotes, yet when he quotes Louis CK he refers to him as “that guy”. I think it’s very clear that Louis and Jason have similar existential bummer personalities, why would Jason not want to associate with him?

  • Pete G.

    Melissa Sterry… was a joy to listen to.

    And boy oh boy, Jason Silva knows so much stuff and soOo many names and names of the noteworthy and names of already named things that when combined together with made-up names for yet unnamed things offer us a selection of names that are rarely named by those less knowledgeable who attempt to name so many noteworthy names. …wow

  • E.M.C.

    I enjoyed Neil and Melissa during the podcast but found Jason Silva to be too much. He really seems to love hearing himself talk and was frankly overbearing in the discussion. I also found most of what he was saying to be redundant and that there was an excessive use of quoting others ( seriously, constant quote after quote, after quote, it was becoming ridiculous), how about some actual facts and scientific studies/advances/technologies today that pertain to the topic at hand? It felt more like a freshmen philosophy discussion and quote off rather than anything else. Sorry, I love startalk and I’m an avid listener, but I’m completely bummed about this one. :(

  • cybersekkin

    The problem I see is that instead of 47% of the population being moochers these technologies turn 80% or more into moochers. Without a fundamental shift in how we view people or how work is divided out all I see is technology turning the majority of humans into the unemployable.

  • cybersekkin

    I should be ore clear I am not worried about the technology, I am worried about the businesses. 😛

  • van

    Wishful thinking at best. Good old USA is the last place to embrace change. It is one of last three countries in the world to adopt the metric system. Put your money on Burma or Liberia to have smart cities before Americans.

  • Doug

    Jason Silva needs to shut it. Man that guy is annoying. Does he have an original thought? I guess he thinks if he talks fast enough no one will notice the B.S. coming out of his mouth. I hate philosophers.

    • marpei


  • S

    wow. I’m glad I am not the only one who had a negative reaction to Jason Silva. I LOVE these podcasts and I LOVE the subject matter of this one but I had to turn it off because I couldnt stand listening to that guy talk

    • Jeff

      Andy, apparently you’re not the only one. But if you did turn it off, I urge you to go back and listen to the end. Whether you like Jason or not, there’s more of Melissa Sterry in the later portion of the show, and her ideas about the future of cities are worth hearing.

  • Nathalie

    Forget Melissa! Neil has the most sensual voice… whew!

  • ZL ‘Kai’ Burington

    Jason Silva seems to use a great number of buzz words. As a biologist, I get the distinct feeling by the way he throws around language that he doesn’t actually understand biology. He is optimistic for sure, and I love /some/ of his conclusion, but the rest is vague philosophy and something close to religion. Also, I really would have liked to hear more of what Melissa had to say about the future of urban planning.

  • Franky D

    This was a really great show, it was a joy to listen to Neil, Sylvia and Eugene.
    Jason Silva’s was a bit too much, he repeats notions that are already shown in movies and pop culture. His statements are vague and unsubstantiated when he talks about the future. He uses unnecessarily large words and lofty concepts to talk about something really simple. It was a bit painful to listen to him with his pretentious words.

    • scrumpchef

      using big words when simple ones will do is the sign of someone who is either insecure or full of himself or in the case of Jason Silva, perhaps both.

  • Korrey Jacobs

    New drinking game!!!… take a swig each time Jason drops a name.

  • Galen

    I respect Jason Silva as a human being who is genuinely interested in the ideas of what makes us human, but I can’t say I agree with his blind faith in technology, and his overly optimistic tone really grated on my nerves. He’s clearly bright and talented, but he’s also young and incredibly naive.

    There’s a reason why the “mad scientist assuring in technologically-advanced dystopia” trope works so well in our science fiction and super hero stories—and it isn’t because it “makes a better story.” The is a real fear of humans going too far, of forgetting the basic human virtues of humility, honesty, fairness, forgiveness, and charity in favor of becoming their own gods. Self-proclaimed “futurists” who claim to be breaking free from the chains of the “Old Guard”—religion and tradition—end up devising their own twisted ideologies.

    I do not invoke these references lightly, but I implore those like Silva who are passionate about transforming humanity without reservation to look at the atrocities committed last century. It’s so easy to remember all the “positive” advances we’ve brought about and simply disregard horrors such as the atomic bomb, mass extermination camps, and chemical warfare and terrorism. Technology is not to blame for any of these; it’s simply a tool. But if we embrace technology by compromising our humanity, we could face far more terrific things tomorrow.

    So let’s put technology in the right hands and use it to enhance our human virtues, not “transcend” them to become our own gods.

  • Andrew

    Shut up, korrey.

    You are naive.

    Take off the tinfoil hat.

    When science goes “too far” we get vaccines and other solutions.

    What you’re talking about are the actions of governments.

    Really, though. You’re silly naive. Being afraid of “becoming gods” is unfounded and misled. Be afraid of more credible possibilities, like climate change.

  • Ben

    I like the optimism, but I think you guys are downplaying the magnitude of climate change impacts, the political hurdles associated with US and global energy policy, and the social justice issues involved in resource extraction and ecosystem collapse.

    I respect you Neil D T, but I think it would behoove you (and the world) to use your public figure status to advance serious awareness and debate on serious issues, however off-putting they may be. If you don’t, sir, the scientific community will be drowned out by special interests and their undue influence.

    Biodiversity decline
    Ecosystem collapse
    Resource mismanagement
    Nuclear threat
    Climate change
    Pollution (and I am not talking about plastic bottles and other eye-sores)
    Soil depletion
    Out-of-control Population Growth

    Real issues need real solutions. They begin with real debate, but real debate is stifled by

    Curved light productions; space-time curvature… Ode to Einstein. Why not bring Hansen to the forefront and think about the fabric of our Earth-based existence instead of thinking about the fabric of the universe. Just kidding, you rock, just help take a stand, PLEASE! Add your voice to the real problems we face instead of ignoring or downplaying them!

  • Cam

    Jason seems so full of himself. He thinks he is the phenomenon rather than he is simply talking about phenomenons. He needs to deflate his sense of AWE in himself. And has anyone noticed that he has nothing of his own to say? He’s just regurgitating ideas that have been floating around for a long time. He thinks he’s a prophet. He’s just a fast talking documentary maker. He would be much more convincing if it was less about him and more about the subject. Talk about dumb-ass personality cult followers.

    • Marpei

      Jason SIlva is the Cesar Milan of Philosophy and I don’t mean it in a good way.

  • Yawa

    Humans are emotional, ergo, the emotion conveyed thru art and poetry, can be a motivational tool, in getting and keeping humans interested in the cosmos. The military works in the same way, in motivating recruits to literally give up their lives for their country.

    The human intellect is what allows us to extend beyond our physical limitation. No other beings on the planet are able to create the things that we use to explore the cosmos. Collectively, and when educated, we are our most valuable resource.

  • Pochunks

    Imagine a future without Jason Silva.

  • Yelena

    This was the first show I listened to , but I did not really like it . I was expecting some in depth conversations on the topic, some new perspectives.

    • Wojtek

      look for “Conversation with God” episode

  • scrumpchef

    did Jason Silva just quote Newsweek?!? is that the bar for science reporting now?

  • HighJFranko12

    I love Jason Silva…

    there is no1 out there like him!

    He is superb at sharing non-mainstream ideas in a very compelling way that makes people consider the adjacent possible.

    He seemed a little bit anxious in this episode, and I think many startalk viewers did not get the best side of him.

    Check out his youtube series “shots of awe” or see him in Season 2 Episode 9 of Startalk series.

    give him another try, promise you won’t be disappointed

    • startalkradio

      Actually, Jason was just awesome as our in-studio guest for an episode of #StarTalkTV where Neil deGrasse Tyson interviewed physicist Brian Cox. It will be available as a podcast on 1/22/16 at 7 pm ET in all the usual places.