Being Human 2013


I’m excited to say I will be attending the Being Human 2013 conference in San Francisco this Saturday!  The all day event is focuses on “the science and mystery of human experience”, with talks by anthropologists, neuroscientists, and other great thinkers of our time.

A lot of smart people are speaking this year, and I hope I don’t wig out from sitting for a long time trying to listen to them all. I was first drawn to the event because of my love of Robert Sapolksy‘s random talks and YouTube videos drifting around the internet.  Sapolksy is a professor at Stanford University teaching in several departments, has received a MacArthur Genius grant, and has an epic beard.  He wrote the fairly-readable tome Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, which discusses the effects of chronic stress on the human body, among many other books.

Robert Sapolksy discussing dopamine:

He also has a ton of lectures and talks available free for download at iTunes U.  I can definitely get lost in his stuff for hours!

Another epic guest is Paul Ekman, the facial expression guru who was the inspiration for the popular (but cancelled) drama TV series Lie To Me.

And how random is this?  Marquese Scott, the epic dancer from that viral dubstep video floating around the internet, is going to perform.  I love that in the midst of all these intellectuals discussing human nature, this guy is going to bust out some moves.

Marquese Scott doing his thing:

Scott seems to be the greatest thing since the beloved David Elsewhere (remember this classic vid?):

Anyways, back to being human.  Other great thinkers will be there, including psychology professor/author Joshua Greene, neuroscientist/author David Eagleman, physician/author Esther Sternberg, some transhumanist lady who sounds INTENSE when talking about prolonging human life, and neuroscientist Richard Davidson.

Here are the mad thinkers I’d love to see included in Being Human in the future:

  • Martine Rothblatt – She has had such an interesting life.  I’m not sure if it is accurate to say she invented satellite radio, but she worked with NASA on satellites and then founded several satellite communication networks, including the first satellite radio networks in 1990.  When her daughter got sick with pulmonary arterial hypertension (a rare disease with no good drugs on the market to treat it), Martine founded a biotech company, got a PhD in bioethics, and helped prolong her daughter’s life by bringing a new drug to market.  20 years later, her daughter is doing well.  Now Martine is into transhumanism and while I don’t know about all of that, reading Jon Ronson’s encounter with Martine’s intelligent robot was quite entertaining
  • William Gibson – Yes, I went there!  Gibson may not be a neuroscientist, but I think he is one of the great thinkers of our time.  He is imagining this stuff far before anyone begins to research, develop, or prove it.  His interview in The Paris Review kept me up all night thinking about the present state of things, and the future.
  • Marlene Zuk – I recently read Zuk’s Paleofantasy, and I’d love to see her debate or discuss her ideas futher, with others in her field.  As I noted in my review of her book, I felt she really lacked the discussion of why our society is turned towards a longing for a more caveman-like lifestyle right now.

I’ll have an update after the festival about what incredible insights I learn, and what new authors and books I discover. Hopefully I can get my Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers signed by Robert Sapolsky!  And then in a week or so, I’m going to see Michael Chabon in discussion at a Park Day School benefit.

Being Human Festival 2013

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