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Meet a Member: Tyr Fothergill

Editor’s note: This post was written by Tyr Fothergill. Dr. Fothergill works as a member of the EU’s Human Brain Project. Below is a post about an interesting outreach effort from April 2018.

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Human Brain Project Ethics Support Outreach at the PAX East Gaming Convention, 4-9 April 2018

As part of my work on the Human Brain Project as a member of the Ethics and Society Subproject, I design and take part in outreach activities on behalf of my work package, Ethics Support. The most recent of these was at PAX East in Boston, MA, U.S.A.

PAX is an extraordinarily popular gaming convention held in multiple locations yearly, and is an excellent opportunity to embrace the “engage with diverse stakeholders” aspect of the Responsible Research and Innovation AREA framework (e.g. Stilgoe at al. 2013). Gamers are often early adopters of innovative technology, and PAX attendees may be amongst the first to benefit from the outcomes of large Brain Projects like the HBP. Furthermore, participants in PAX tend to be interested in deeper issues related to gaming and tech, and are excited to discuss these with experts. Gamers are often knowledgeable about technology and more comfortable being presented with complex or innovative research than other “lay audiences”. In addition, neuro-diversity is well-represented in the wider gaming community, which may make brain-related research more interesting or personally relevant to some participants. These attributes make the attendees of PAX an ideal range of stakeholders to reach order to bolster the public acceptability of research into AIs and brain-related technologies through the lens of gaming.

Attendance estimates of the 2017 PAX East convention range from 70,000 to 110,000 people. PAX features “typical” video game convention offerings like demos, meet-and-greets, panels by developers or gaming celebrities, opportunities to see or use new software or hardware, and terrible food.

PAX presents a remarkable opportunity for games and tech-based social research, awareness-raising, and outreach. I was invited to represent the Human Brain Project’s Ethics Support group at Dr. Catherine Flick’s Ask An Ethicist PAX booth, an established outpost of friendly, scholarly social inquiry which I helped to support in a non-neuroscience-related capacity in 2017. The Ask an Ethicist booth not only accommodates first-hand research (surveys, questionnaires, testing of programmes designed to increase tech or communication accessibility) but also involves informal conversations about technology, privacy, research, ethics, data, etc.

I created a PAX panel from an “infotainment” angle called “BRAAAAAAAINS: Archaeology and Philosophy of Zombies in Video Games” which covered David Chalmers’s “philosophical zombies” thought experiment, selected case studies from archaeology covering some origins of modern ideas around “zombie” that informed later depictions in films and other material culture. We linked these ideas to specific popular video game scenarios involving zombies, which led to a historical contextualisation of what zombies represent in terms of public opinions and trust. We touched upon issues around neuroscience and ICT, including consciousness, animacy, personhood, post-mortem agency, and undeath in video games, asking the audience whether general AI could potentially be considered a form of zombie, etc. We also took the opportunity to call attention to the U.S. Brain Initiative and Neuroethics division.

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Drs. Catherine Flick (L) and Tyr Fothergill (R) prepare to discuss video game zombies and the future of neuroscience

At the Ask an Ethicist booth, we asked PAX attendees a series of questions regarding video games, experiences, and research and innovation ethics over the course of the convention (e.g. “What video game represents a future that we should work toward?”), and received more than 400 responses. Approximately 370 people attended the BRAAAAAAAINS panel, and they asked 69 questions in the anonymous online forum during the panel, but we overran our slot and many sought us out at the Ask an Ethicist Booth later for further queries. The vast majority of questions we received were directly related to ethics and neuroscience or ICT. We ran out of time to respond to all of these, and plan to address them in future episodes of “Not Just a Game”, Dr. Flick’s ethics and gaming podcast. All told, we made more than 700 people aware of the Ethics Support group and the Human Brain Project.

I am confident that using video games as a way to engage members of the public with ethical issues in topics such as general and specific AI, “brain-inspired” computing, medical data, and neuroscientific investigation more generally) is impactful. When the story about prolonging the life of pig brains broke, I was immediately contacted on Twitter by someone who had seen our panel at PAX, and wanted to know what I thought about it.

The Prezi and the video of us speaking with the panel slides are available online.
Stilgoe, J., Owen, R. and Macnaghten, P., 2013. Developing a framework for responsible innovation. Research Policy, 42(9), pp.1568-1580.

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Join Us at International Neuroethics Society on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 @ 7:30 pm.

JOIN US FOR FOOD AND DRINK BY THE HARBOR (each person will be responsible for his/her bill)

Catch up with old friends and collaborators and make new ones along the way!

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• Date: Friday, November 11, 2016
• Time: 7:30pm until 9:30pm
• Location: Sally’s Fish House and Bar. One Market Place, San Diego, CA 92101. Phone: 619 358 6740
• Sally’s is 0.7 mile (15-min walk) from the Westin Gaslamp (where the poster session will be held)

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Please RSVP to Karen Rommelfanger (krommel@emory.edu) by Tuesday, November 1st at 5pm EST.

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CFA: Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?

Symposium of interest: Deadline for submissions Feb 1, 2016.

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A symposium entitled “Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?” will be held at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago on April 15-16, 2016. Researchers across disciplines who are interested in this question are asked to submit abstracts of 200-400 words by February 1st, 2016 to NormativeNeuroscience@gmail.com. More information regarding abstract submission can be found here and questions can be directed to symposium organizer Geoff Holtzman at NormativeNeuroscience@gmail.com.

For more information, please see here.

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It’s Complicated: Molly Crocket and Patricia Churchland Discuss the Future of the Neuroscience of Morality

This blog post written by Julia Haas was originally featured on The Neuroethics Blog.

Last month, as a recipient of the Emory Neuroethics Program Neuroethics Travel Award, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting in San Diego, California. The conference brought together leading neuroethics scholars from around the world and focused on the themes of moral enhancement, disorders of consciousness, and the role of neuroscience in the courtroom. (The conference was structured around three star-studded panels. For a full program, please visit here. For full videos of the panels, please visit here.) There were also five oral presentations and a poster session. As part of the event, I exhibited a poster entitled “Revising Weakness of Will: A Reply to Neil Levy,” where I challenged Levy’s use of the theory of ego depletion as an explanation of weakness of will and provided an alternate, neurocomputational account.

Presenting my poster at INS.

Photo credit: Karen Rommelfanger

As a philosopher interested in the intersection of the computational neurosciences and morality, “The Science and Ethics of Moral Enhancement” session was a particularly enlightening one for me. It brought together three leading women neuroethics scholars, Barbara Sahakian (as Moderator), Molly Crockett, and Patricia Churchland, as well as neuroethicist Julian Savulescu of the Oxford University Center for Neuroethics. It was a remarkable conversation. Throughout their discussions and even in the question period that followed, I was struck by how clearheaded the panelists were about the challenges facing the field. At the same time, and despite their very different perspectives, they evidently shared a real optimism about the future of this area of research. As the session moderator, neuroscientist and neuroethicist Barbara Sahakian of Cambridge University set the tone by explaining that the panelists would tackle, “the science of what’s possible now,” but also look at “what we may be able to do in the future.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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International Neuroethics Society Meeting on Nov 7-8, 2013 in San Diego!

The International Neuroethics Society announces its 5th Annual Meeting (a satellite of the Society for Neuroscience Meeting) November 7 & 8 San Diego.

Abstracts are due June 15, 2013.  For more information and the program see here.

Listen to INS Member Molly Crockett cordially invite you here.

Bring your friends and family to the open-to-the-public program November 7 on Neurogaming: What’s Neuroscience and Ethics Got to Do with It?

Register for the meeting on November 8 here.

The speaker lineup includes Barbara Sahakian & John Pickard, University of Cambridge, Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford, Patricia Churchland, University of California-San Diego, Molly Crockett, University of Zurich, Jens Clausen, University of Tubingen, Lisa Claydon, Bristol Law School, University of the West England, Joe Fins & Niko Schiff, Weill Cornell Medical College, Holly Moore, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Mauricio Delgado, Rutgers University, Catherine Sebastian, Royal Holloway, University of London, J. David Jentsch, University of California – Los Angeles, and Honorable Robert Trentacosta, Presiding Judge of San Diego Superior Court.

See you in San Diego!

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Brain Matters 3 Call for Late-breaking abstracts!

*Deadline for abstract submissions: August 13, 2012

Brain Matters 3:

Values at the Crossroads of Neurology,

Psychiatry and Psychology

October 24th-25th, 2012

This conference provides a venue for collaboration and learning in the area of neuroethics. The plenary speakers of this conference will address ethical challenges in the treatment and research for conditions with neurological symptomatology but that are without identifiable biological correlates/causes. The complexities of suffering and disability experienced by individuals with these conditions are significant, including exposure to dangerous and futile treatments. Read the rest of this entry »

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International Neuroethics Society 2012

Abstract submissions for the 2012 International Neuroethics Society meeting in New Orleans are due JULY 2!

 The International Neuroethics Society welcomes abstracts reporting recent results in the field of neuroethics and related topics. Investigators at any career stage are encouraged to submit abstracts. Abstracts are due JULY 2.

Selections will be made based on content, available space and overall balance. Participants may submit the same abstract for the INS meeting as for the Society for Neuroscience Meeting.

Five submissions will be selected for Oral Presentations. Two submissions will receive a $250 Travel Award. Twenty-five abstracts will be published in the online version of American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience.

The deadline is 5:00 p.m. EDT on JULY 2, 2012. Submit your abstract to administrator@neuroethicssociety.org. Accepted presentations will receive notification by August 1.

For more information, click here.

Hope to see you in New Orleans!

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