If you haven't watched "Brain Games" on NatGeo yet, consider tonight's season finale (Mon. June 24 at 9:00 p.m.) a chance to have your mind blown. Dedicated to the fine art of lying, the show asks the question whether there's an upside to bending the truth -- and yes, you might be surprised. The show, hosted by Jason Silva, puts viewers to the test (don't worry if you flunk) and explains why our minds do the crazy things they do. I spoke to Silva about tonight's finale, and somehow we ended up talking about pot and porn, too. 
 
The season finale of "Brain Games" covers the topic of lying. Do we get a pass on following the golden rule?
It's interesting. I think one of the big takeaways is the whole notion of the white lie or the subtle lie is actually useful for our society. It's one of the fabrics that holds our society together. If you're going to spare someone the expense of hurting their feelings, there are all these instances in which white lies are okay. We actually look at how lying works at the level of the brain, and we have experiments where we have little kids, and we put them in situations where they're lying as well. So there's this one experiment where they're in this room with a one way mirror, and the guy comes in and says you're gonna have to wait here for ten minutes, you can't eat that cake. When we come back, we're gonna give you a prize. Then we wait 15 minutes, kids lose [control] and they bite it. So we ask, did you bite that piece? "No, somebody else came and took it!" So you see them come up with devices to save their own skin. Because lying is connected with creativity in a way. Art is the lie that reveals the truth, as they say. It's a simulation, it's a fiction, but we get a lot of truth from it.
 
My favorite episode was one where we're given a test -- we have to count the ducks we see on the screen. But what we don't realize is that all the "ducks" are actually bunnies. 
You can be primed. By telling you to count the ducks, you only look for ducks. The brain is very suggestible. That's kind of trippy, because you think what you're seeing is reality but it's kind of not. It's a simulation, an inference, your best guess.
 
I sometimes feel while watching the show that I'm more easily manipulated than I think I am. 
In my own search for psychological spaces of happiness and my desire to author my own subjective state, I've learned that novelty is key, man. New experiences make us come alive, because they force us to pay attention to the world again. Habit makes things stale. Habit deadens. When we stay within our habituated ways of thinking, we become blind to the wonders that surround us. We need to pull ourselves radically out of context in order to gawk in amazement at the everyday wonders we're culturally predisposed to ignore.  Henry Miller used to say even a blade of grass, when given the proper attention, becomes a a magnificent world in itself. Darwin said attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise and gives into astonishment and stupefied amazement. So this is an obsession for me. How do I put myself into the mental places that will make me feel more alive and more porous to the world around me.
 
Plus, your interest in this led to you getting onto "Brain Games."
I have a series of shorts that I put on the web that explore the coevolution of humans and technology, so they explore inspiration, they explore technological singularity, how we use technology as scaffolding to extend our limits and transcend our boundaries. And these short films are like psychedelic art films that went viral, so I do a lot of speaking around the world about technology and creativity and imagination, and those short film are the ones that got me the gig on Nat Geo as well. So my own content has really opened all these doors for me.
 
What do you hope people learn from the show? 
Doubt. Learn to wonder. Let go of what you know, and instead wonder.
 
Is it also sometimes a warning about how marketing and clever advertising can influence you? 
I don't think the consumer is a dope to be duped. I think the consumer is the toughest market disciplinarian that we know. I think it's really up to us to leverage our power as consumers to create terms that are good for us. 
 
What's up for next season?
We're already writing all the scripts and we start shooting in September. I really want to do an episode on altered states of consciousness. Especially now with America finally coming to terms with marijuana, and the majority supporting it. Instead of the typical stuff about medical marijuana, which we already know the magnificent uses that it has, I want to do something about marijuana and creativity. My hero, Carl Sagan, was a big advocate of marijuana and used to love it. He was brilliant. And I think I could have a serious conversation about marijuana and creativity. As somebody who supports legalization, I would love to see that. 
 
Is this a little edgy for you guys?
We have a lot of episodes about pot. Not "Brain Games," but NatGeo has done stuff on marijuana fields. It not taboo anymore. It was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, how we won the war on pot.
 
Anything else?
We're doing all sorts of stuff. Probably one on sex. What turns us on and why, in our brains. Porn and the brain. People used to say porn is going to make us all into a bunch of rapists, and that was the fear from the religious conservatives. But now that porn is so prevalent, it's actually made men's libidos go down. They can't have sex with their girlfriends. And you know why? The brain can't tell the difference between simulation and the real thing. When you have a climax from watching porn, your brain has a climax. And the fact there is so much variety of porn, a man can watch twenty different types of new women every night. The brain is wired to spread the seed, so he's literally gotten off to all these different females. To the brain, he just had sex with all these people. There's a fascinating article about it and a TED talk, too.
 
So, no one's having sex. 
Just living lives of quiet desperation. 
 
Thus, porn, pot, and...
And what about DMT that all these artists are doing now? I've never done it, but I read about it because I find it fascinating. I think we should be exploring the borders of our consciousness the way we're exploring the cosmos, you know?
 
Is there anything else you'd like to do?
I love "Brain Games" because I love being a part of something that's teaching people basic science. I'd love to do a type of talk show type of thing, have a mind meld with tech speakers. So Douglas Rushkoff or Eric Davis or Ray Kurzweil and just mind jam with them. I even have a name for it: "Neuro Storm." That's going to be my companion series to "Brain Games." And keep doing my little shots of awe on the side.
 
I think we may have to stop here. There's no beating "little shots of awe."
Shots of philosophical espresso!
 
Now I want coffee.
It's okay. Coffee's good for you.