Stewart Brand: America’s Last Great Optimist

Stewart Brand has been at the forefront of multiple societal trends since the 1960s, and now he’s trying to bring back the woolly mammoth and other species from extinction. 

Is this folly or is he once again ahead of the curve? 

Stewart might just be one of the most influential people that none of us have heard of. 

He travelled around with the novelist Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Afterwards, he kick-started the modern environmental movement, by pressuring NASA to release a satellite image of the earth. 

Stewart’s Whole Earth Catalog inspired a whole generation, including Steve Jobs. As if that was not enough, Stewart went on to mentor the early pioneers of Silicon Valley.

We talk to the directors of We Are As Gods, David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, about Stewart’s life and the different inspirational movements he has been involved with. 

Since the coronavirus has delayed the releasing of the documentary, we also discuss how the pandemic has affected the film industry as a whole. And we learn what it is like to have your premier at SXSW cancelled at the last minute. 

“We are as gods and we might as well get good at it.” – Stewart Brand

Time Stamps:

03:06 – A short background of Stewart Brand.
04:04 – Where David and Jason are based.
04:42 – How the riots have been affecting them.
06:42 – Who Stewart Brand is.
08:26 – Stewart’s involvement with Ken Kesey and the 1960s counterculture movement.
11:40 – The first satellite picture of the earth and Stewart’s role in the environmental movement. 15:26 – The Whole Earth Catalogue and how to rebuild society.
18:30 – What Stewart meant by saying ‘We are as gods’.
21:45 – How Stewart changed his message as the production of the film progressed.
23:02 – The first clip and the history of the hackers conference.
26:00 – The De-extinction Movement.
29:28 – What the film is really about.
32:14 – Whether Stewart is happy and his experiences with depression.
36:11 – How David and Jason got involved with the project.
39:26 – Interviewing Brian Eno and using his music on the documentary.
43:10 – The 10,000-year clock.
45:00 – How David and Jason collaborated with their post-production team.
47:26 – How the coronavirus has disrupted the release of the film.
50:17 – The endless difficulties involved with marketing a film without film festivals.
53:15 – Different people’s reactions to the film’s delayed release. 

Resources:

We Are As Gods
The Merry Pranksters
The Whole Earth Catalogue
Alamo Pictures

Connect with David Alvarado:
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Connect with Jason Sussberg:
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Connect with Factual America:
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Connect with Matthew Sherwood:
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Episode 18