Podcast notes : Storytelling With Jason Silva and Tim Urban by Brains

Image from the episode of storytelling in brains podcasts website.


Brains podcasts aim to bring together the smartest minds on the Internet. We can say that they succeeded this time!

Julian Shapiro and Courtland Allen discussed with Tim Urban and Jason Silva how to become an effective writer, speaker, and politician — through storytelling.

> Link to the podcast


[1:49] Since the dawn of time, humans communicate with stories. It’s unbelievable to imagine someone making a three bullet point PowerPoint to tell everybody that a lion almost ate him. Memorable facts are more emotional.

“The best people at the top of their field like this, these politicians and cult leaders and comedians are all really good storytellers.”

[3:33] Before there were physical wars, now there are wars of stories and fewer wars of weapons. If they are important enough, you want your stories to survive, and eventually, you want to silence other stories that are not like yours.

“I think on some level, other stories become existential threats to our story.”

[5:38] We lie to ourselves all the time using well-crafted stories. Religious solutions to deaths are stories, falling in love following the narrative that Hollywood instills in us, etc… They are all vital lies, existentially sustaining narratives.

[10:06] James Glick wrote an essay on memes called “What Defines a Meme?” and how they have infectivity and spreading power. The same idea applies to ideas. It’s like in inception, an idea can be highly resilient, highly contagious, can help you grow, evolve, or destroy you.

[21:01] Powerful communicators can make almost anyone experience emotional synchrony. They have the power to put everyone on the same wavelength so that they all experience the same kinds of emotions. Good actors do that too (like Robin Williams).


“Science explicates, but poetry implicates.”

Myth is false from the outside but true from the inside. Indeed, elements that composed them are poetically true, subjectively true, but objectively false.

[33:14] Language is a barrier to storytelling. Translating a feeling, an idea, a sensation that we have inside into the minds of others is so hard.

“You have to squish it down into like a string of words and then give them like those words.”

[34:18]Paul Graham doesn’t write an essay to defend a bunch of points and tell people to argue with or against him, but he relates his experience in the form of a story.

“You get it through the lens of a story of paul’s experiences and the way that you engage with it.”

[35:12] How Julian writes stories:

  • A very first draft is about finding novelty.
  • The second one is about popping off the main ideas of the page, how to make them resonate (adding analogies, illustrations, facts).



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