National Geographic's Jason Silva Talks the Brain Game

Can you make yourself smarter?
11:59 | 07/28/14

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Transcript for National Geographic's Jason Silva Talks the Brain Game
So it sounds simple enough. Out -- ties the days of the week and yet brain games on National Geographic is showing us some -- some simple mental challenges can be. Little tougher than they look. Thursday -- he's staying. Monday Friday. There is they -- easy -- a great Monday. Saturday Sunday and Thursday Tuesday Wednesday. Now very quickly give it color it's cool and red hammer -- you know why so where you said that. What the fifth -- pop up her -- and that. Have the bleep button ready for about Jason's over the house to bring gains as with us -- today in the studio a figure that would stop them by thank -- -- so wait a minute that you have to explain behind that because people this is not what some kind of like. David Blaine magic trade and now actual science behind that -- out at all you know what I often tell people that what that -- -- tricks of these experiments that we set up are meant to highlight sort of limitations in how you perceive reality they're meant to show. The short cuts that the brain often uses to sort of quickly respond to the world and to respond to stimuli that we get. And so what you decides one of those games where we were kind of distracting you buy out asking you do a difficult task like alphabetizing days of the week. And then asking you really quick answer because your brain is so distracted by the previous task we asked that do. You're relying on quick reflexes and what you find is that everybody almost everybody says. Red hammer which goes to show you you may feel like an individual when you're relying on a lot of the same reflexes and shortcuts in the majority of people which is crazy that everything is -- that's just like when the examples for -- games for those who have not checked out the show tells a little bit about that the that the press -- -- absolutely so what we don't bring -- as we said of these elaborate experiments these participatory deems. That are meant to highlight limitations -- how you perceive reality so people watch the show and he experiential even at home can participate in the games and then they quickly learned. I got -- in real element had to -- me or why does the world look like this and what they find is that your perceptions of reality that you take for granted -- -- a lot more. Ambiguous and that you actually color your perceptions with here. Culture your preconceptions your stereotypes kind of you kind of -- produce your reality and what you call reality is usually just. Interpretation. It's an estimation it's your brains best guess I can actually give you an example of this. Your brain loves patterns and left to complete the pattern. The quickest pattern -- confined to save energy to be efficient often at the expense of the real data set that is meant to them. Identified. If I was asking is one of those funny -- games that we do people -- to question. Mary's mother has four daughters. April Maine June who would be the fourth of July OK now the reason your -- immediately goes to July's because -- handed you pattern from -- to you by saying. April may and June. So you quickly are completing that pattern that prime -- but the question itself if you look at the whole question was. Me a reason mother. Has four. -- I have to -- the coffee today and get it but that. It's a simple game but I highlights a profound truth because you're doing this all the time you're getting. It's getting information through your senses your brain is connecting the dots and it's -- those dots to render the reality that you take for granted in most of the time it's enough to get around. You know to cross the street to do your day today but we're meant to show you how much you're missing. -- the game is that this would bring it is about what it. And and one of the things -- of the episodes that you do -- -- -- swapper got in this is that men and women in fact are wired differently yeah. I mean yes they are one of the things that we did we did a couple of games it was like men against women battle of the sexes campuses with which of -- really popular one. And we had a game called pack the trunk. Which who has basically to see who could basically -- the trunk of their car faster more efficiently to make it close and it was like all this stuff and -- the stuff in there. And what we found is that you know the men tended to be better and arranging objects in the small space -- -- like one advantage they had. Men also tended to be better at directions. Just one of those like funny stared at that this instance lately as anything that we know is -- conventional as well that goes I've tried to refuse to stop the gas station -- open up a map on the of course now -- -- -- we have Smart and doesn't really matter where I dove -- that capacity to our tools that originally you know 100000 years ago in this event -- of Africa when the man had to go hunt. They had to somehow find themselves had to find a way to get back to the camp so to speak and back. Meant that they had to have a better sense of direction that was just -- was selected for interest women were better pretty much everything else. And with different records -- difficult for clarification purposes yet so. Yeah and we speaking of Smartphones as far as the future enabling us didn't think that I mean from basis in his experiments and working and showed you think in fact that it has made us. Somewhat lazier somewhat -- it was a dumber but you know be more reliant on technology I think we have been relying on technology ever since the early hominid picked up a stick on the floor and use -- to reach a fruit -- a really high tree we've been using our tools to extend our reach. Man is a tool making and tool using animal. And I have actually -- whole web series on the web called shots of law. Where I explore the role of technology is Lewis is kind of scaffolding that expands the potential of mankind that we've been using our tools to expand our capacities since the beginning of time. And so when people I think are afraid of these new tools. -- it for it it's better for to give them a kind of macro context and to remind him of examples like when we invented writing. -- -- -- -- People like Socrates used to say that can atrophy our brains because we write things down and remember anything right we'll have always been afraid of these new tools because they're disruptive but in the end we assimilate the minutes who and what we are that's kind of what it means to be human. It's so you know and bring -- -- -- they're trying to point out like any kind of deficiencies or any kind of -- we you know laziness or allow cognitive abilities. Have you discovered though in conducting these shows and doing these rivers are there things that we -- be given -- day to day basis to sort of keep ourselves mentally sharp and on. Yes step out of your comfort zone. You know it sounds like a bumper sticker but when you rely on traditional mental models when you do the same thing when you get into a routine anything that you -- it's always around becomes invisible routine means running on auto pilot means not engaging you're not thinking so we often tell people. You know change commute to work take up a new hobby learn the language and renewable -- youth boxing you know. Because that's reinvigorate your mind you get if you get -- -- means creating -- your brain which rewards you for engaging in novel behavior. You know it's in the exploratory. -- mankind had we of these -- -- in both direction on the one hand we want to. To that transcend obstacles overcome boundaries do something new but we also get comfortable routine. And -- guess what we tell people lumbering gains as we have these limitations. But when things you -- do overcome these limitations as to shake things up try something you engage with the world around and that's hopefully wanted to take away as people. You know what -- -- -- most mind blowing experiment the results I remember once we did one about perception that blew my mind you know we kind of rely on our allies to render this -- reality that we take for granted. But in fact our -- can only process imagery that is flat two dimensional and low resolution. So consider that for a second through your eyes you're only taking in. Information that is low reds and two. TV boxes up converting the signal and turning into -- high death. Three world music for granted which means your brain is coal producing you -- reality. It makes you think of all those bumper stickers that say you create your destiny you create your reality you create your world you know. Robert -- Wilson to use them but the fact that we -- inside of our reality tunnels. And when you can transcend our reality Honolulu to Cole author our reality I'll wind up trapped in reality we unique are reality in films like the matrix spoke to -- -- -- is perception. You know reality is what you perceive right I think that that so over the mind blowing take away from all of the game. No immediate yes it is the organs working in conjunction that -- -- -- that. So in addition to bringing drugs to working with Yahoo! health and a very important cause that's right -- I'm the ambassador for campaign called MS visionaries which is living -- the Yahoo! health port which is amazing because I have an aunt who was diagnosed with -- many years ago you know -- 400000 people in the US alone 2.3 million people worldwide and so -- visionaries has campaigned -- spotlighting basically vision here individuals were bringing innovative approaches to helping those living with Amex. So it's really cool because its celebration of those that are spending their lives and make other people's lives better branded as a guy called dawn who creates. Custom wheelchairs you know adjusted to whatever mobility restrictions people with a -- -- -- and focus. A lot of -- are made the same way but people with a mass at all kinds of different symptoms is that this -- adjusting the wheelchair for wherever might needed depending on the restriction mobility issues. And he's adjusting them -- tweaking it for whatever their their needs may be which is offs yeah there's there's another visionary named -- the and Mindy has created a special yoga yoga class you know for people with MS -- -- -- even. Even I'm intimidated by yoga reckless things that you assume you have to be so flexible to be able to do. But she actually makes it no matter what restrictions of the -- limitations you're dealing with with your MS she will adjust the yoga to you. And -- mission you can get the benefits from yoga so it's like. Every week they'll be another visionary -- being spotlighted and again it's it's meant to be an antidote to this doom and gloom environment in the media outlets feel good. Let's celebrate people that are helping other people's lives you know and and this is something I think we're celebrity bringing attention to and I'm and I'm very passionate about. The human capacity to overcome boundaries -- our capacity to take the limitations object over comment. And having him as visionaries is a celebration of that throughout the department lunch a lot of the priest at -- -- opened the door to those kinds of possibilities and opportunities that are out there now that's -- to -- that you working with you know un -- and doing that yet. Yeah also you travel around lasted beyond -- -- -- -- -- you travel around you give you give yes speeches as a futurist. That would. Sort of came from a passion project -- are doing these web videos easily trailers for the mind has since evolved into web series called shots of law. And the idea of being debt. You know most people have this kind of -- version this year technology. In spite of the fact that technology used in the means that which mankind has overcome all of his limitations and we didn't state in the caves we haven't stayed on the planet. With the Biotech and health -- revolutions that are coming now won't even stay within the limitations of biology so what does it mean. How we respond to the fact these technologies now. Coming on line it exponentially faster way -- we've seen the world change in the last thirty years in the back of these exponential trend. We haven't even seen what's coming -- attack we haven't even seen -- coming with the Internet of things we extend sensors and everything in the world becomes basically intelligent the man made world will be responding to us and real time matrix feedback system you know like. I mean the world can be changed in ways that we can even Adam. Adding that it is it -- as Marcia -- and used to say it's always been the artist who reminds us that the future is the president -- uses his work to prepare the grounds for. So I travel the world stock in the companies like Google and Intel and Microsoft and IBM and giving lectures about. Optimism creativity the human capacity to overcome boundaries and how to -- technology -- this separate thing but as our second skin. As our scaffolding as our extended beyond -- iPhone therefore I. Patent that I mean. Or arm -- -- their red hammer so they can match their fears of Winnetka. To exact -- called brain games and that year cases have a thank you so much easier having me appreciate thank you think you. Yeah.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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