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Instant Expert

Join our one-day masterclass and hear from experts that are probing the mystery of consciousness

鶹Ƶ. Science news and long reads from expert journalists, covering developments in science, technology, health and the environment on the website and the magazine.
Event
Join our one-day masterclass and hear from experts that are probing the mystery of consciousness
7 September 2024
10:00am - 5:00pm
Venue
Conway Hall, London

鶹Ƶ presents ...

Instant Expert – Inside the conscious mind

Saturday 7 September, 10am - 5pm | Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL

For centuries, philosophers have grappled with the mystery of consciousness: the unique inner world that seems fundamental to human existence. Despite the long-standing challenge of finding a definitive answer, the last two decades have seen a surge in neuroscience research, offering fascinating insights into its nature.

The conscious mind acts like a conductor, orchestrating a symphony of sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and memories to create the unified narrative of a person's life. It allows us to experience the world around us and have a sense of self. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing neuroscientists today is understanding how this all arises from a complex network of just a kilo or so of brain cells.

NEW EVENT FORMAT FOR 2024

We are always seeking ways to make our events more inclusive and to find new ways to deliver value to you. For 2024 we have reduced the ticket prices and introduced a new ticket option “super early bird” for our Instant Expert events. All our Instant Expert events will be held at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London. An Instant Expert ticket will no longer included refreshments or lunch, but the agenda includes a lunch break and there are many great eateries close to Conway Hall to choose from. But what doesn’t change is that each event will continue to feature six expert speakers sharing their knowledge and latest research on the event topic. We hope you like the changes we have made to the event format for 2024, and as always we welcome your feedback.

At this Instant Expert, you’ll:

  • Explore the latest groundbreaking discoveries in neuroscience.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the brain’s mysteries.
  • Meet and learn from leading researchers at the forefront of the field.
  • Ask questions and engage in discussions about the future of our consciousness.

Talks and speakers:

The Edge of Sentience: Risk and Precaution in Humans, Other Animals, and AI

Jonathan Birch, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics

Can octopuses feel pain and pleasure? What about crabs, shrimps, insects or spiders? How do we tell whether a person unresponsive after severe brain injury might be suffering? When does a fetus in the womb start to have conscious experiences? Could there even be rudimentary feelings in miniature models of the human brain, grown from human stem cells? And what about AI? These are questions about the edge of sentience, and they are subject to enormous, disorienting uncertainty. The stakes are immense, and neglecting the risks can have terrible costs. We need to err on the side of caution, yet it’s often far from clear what ‘erring on the side of caution’ should mean in practice. When are we going too far? When are we not doing enough? Birch's new book The Edge of Sentience presents a precautionary framework designed to help us reach ethically sound, evidence-based decisions despite our uncertainty - the talk will introduce the main ideas from the book.

How Studying Consciousness Can Help Physics

George Musser, Contributing Editor, Scientific American Magazine

We’re living in super-exciting times in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and fundamental physics. Although people tend to pigeonhole these disciplines into separate boxes, there’s a vigorous exchange of ideas among them. And physics, for one, needs that. Physicists see hints that the deepest puzzles in our understanding of the natural universe hinge on the question of what -we- are and how finite creatures can comprehend something so much vaster than ourselves. This is especially acute in quantum physics. Now that neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers of mind have developed theories of consciousness, can they give physicists a helping hand?

How does my brain create me? The neuroscience of self-consciousness.

Jane Aspell, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Anglia Ruskin University

What are you and how did your brain create you? Although everyone has (and is) a self, it is not easy to explain how selves came to arise in the world. Most people associate self-consciousness with personality and identity, but what lies at its core – what is its deep biological basis? In this talk, Jane Aspell will argue that the self is grounded in the brain’s model of the body: that the physical self is the foundation for the mental self. Jane will discuss how disturbed interactions between the body and the brain can give rise to disorders of self such as ‘out of body experiences’ and depersonalisation disorder. Studies of the brain bases of these conditions, and virtual reality experiments that perturb the self in healthy individuals are starting to reveal how the brain generates the cornerstone of our consciousness: our self.

Gut microbiota and our consciousness

Philip Burnet, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Oxford

Two more exciting talks to be announced soon...

Who should attend?

This masterclass is designed for everyone with a passion for the brain, from curious beginners to neuroscience enthusiasts. No prior knowledge is required, just an open mind and a curiosity to learn.

Benefits of attending:

  • Become an expert in one day
  • Informal set-up, meet like minded people
  • Open your mind, be inspired
  • Unique chance to ask your burning questions to our experts

What's included in your ticket:

  • In-depth and engaging talks from six leading scientists
  • Ask-an-expert Question Time session
  • Your chance to meet our six speakers and 鶹Ƶ host
  • Exclusive on-the-day 鶹Ƶ subscription deal, book and merchandise offers

Booking information:

The event will be held at the Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL Doors will open at 9:15am, with talks commencing at 10am sharp. The event will finish at 5pm.We require the name of each person attending - please ensure this is provided at the time of booking. If you need to change the name of an attendee, please notify us as soon as possible: live@newscientist.comEventbrite will email you your ticket(s) immediately after purchase. Please remember to bring your ticket(s) with you as you'll need it to gain entry. We can scan tickets from a print out, or off the screen of a phone / tablet / smartwatch.The schedule / exact running order for the day will be confirmed closer to the event, and will be emailed to all ticket holders.Lunch will NOT be provided at this event. Visitors are welcome to bring their own food, or purchase lunch at one of the many establishments around Red Lion Square and the surrounding area.Should you require details about disabled access, please contact us at: live@newscientist.comTickets are non-transferable to any other 鶹Ƶ event.All tickets are non-refundable.鶹Ƶ reserves the right to alter the event and its line-up, or cancel the event. In the unlikely event of cancellation, all tickets will be fully refunded. 鶹Ƶ Ltd will not be liable for any additional expenses incurred by ticket holders in relation to the event.Tickets are subject to availability and are only available in advance through Eventbrite.

Event
Join our one-day masterclass and hear from experts that are probing the mystery of consciousness
7 September 2024
10:00am - 5:00pm
Venue
Conway Hall, London