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Neuroscience at societal scales: an expert workshop

12 may 2016 09:00 - 17:30
Institut d'études avancées de Paris
Hôtel de Lauzun
17 quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

Workshop organized by Patrick Haggard (University College London), Paris IAS fellow


How will growing knowledge about human neurobiology change our social and cultural concepts of human nature?  Modern scientific investigations shed increasing light on the mechanisms that make us who we are – for example, why we may be aggressive, or empathetic. The application and status of that knowledge are largely undebated. Could it, and should it be used as a basis for social or political decisions, for instance? To give one example, many governments currently exploit recent knowledge about human decision-making to ‘nudge’ citizens into appropriate behaviours, such as payment of taxes and fines. At the same time, the use of neuromechanistic knowledge at societal levels raises profound human and ethical problems. Historical precedents show it is dangerously open to abuses, such as pseudo-scientific defence of eugenics or other harmful practices. Moral philosophers may view it as crossing the red line between ‘is’ and ‘ought’. Medical science has correctly prioritised duty of care to the individual patient, and has generally avoided engaging how underpinning neurobiological knowledge might be relevant to human at societal scales.

This meeting convenes a small group of experts, working across neuroscience, medicine, psychology and philosophy. The group will consider how mechanistic scientific knowledge about the origins of human behaviour might constrain ideas about how humans should live, and how societies might be run. Questions addressed will include: How will the neuroscientific understanding of human nature influence our societies in the future? What moral red lines mark the divide between science serving humanity, and science controlling humanity? Is such scientific control necessarily wrong, or is it already implicitly accepted and widespread? 


9:00       Arrival, registration

9:15       Welcome and Opening remarks

Enhancement and engineering

9:30      Patrick Haggard, IEA de Paris, UCL 

10:00    Itzhak Fried, IEA de Paris, UCLA

10:30    Discussion

10:45    Coffee

Autonomy and decision

11:15    Sofia Bonicalzi, University College London

11:45    Mathias Pessiglione, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière

12:15    Discussion

12:30    Lunch

Persuasion and geopolitics

14:00    Julian Marewski, Université de Lausanne

14:30    Nicholas Wright, University of Birmingham

15:15    Discussion

15:30    Coffee

Neurogovernment and policy

1600      Shane O’Mara, Trinity College institute of Neuroscience

1630      Discussion

16:45    Concluding remarks, general discussion, future directions (Patrick Haggard)

17:30    Close


Les inscriptions sont closes. Néanmoins l’entrée sera possible 5 minutes avant le début de l’événement en fonction du nombre de places disponibles.
Neurobiological knowledge and human nature
01 May 2016 - 31 May 2016
12 May 2016 17:30
Patrick Haggard
Conferences and workshops
Contemporary period (1789-…)
World or no region