The Work of Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction

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The Work of Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction

March 20, 2015 - March 21, 2015

To the extent that the work of science fiction must develop, order, or structure the space in which its narratives are situated, the ways in which cognition and neuroethics are deployed in these narratives remains unexamined. Unrestrained by time, space, and technology, if the expression of both the failings and ideals of humanity can be interrogated across these narratives, then the degree by which certain narratives occasion neuroethical decisions can equally be explored. What are the right answers as expressed in the genre and what implications thereof are advanced? What is the project of neuroethics in science fiction? What is the ideal expression involving the brain or brain-like systems? What cognitive moves drive science fiction narratives? What is the work of cognition in any particular science fiction narrative? What is the role of reason, reasons, reasoning, and rationality?

The theme should be interpreted broadly. Potential topics may include, but are certainly not limited to:

Neuro-evidence as functions of crime detection and justice
Omnipotence, omniscience, and action, or the Problem of Evil and extremely advanced or evolved technologies and species
Dilemmas, Death, and (in)action
Cognition as an articulation of power
Orders and Bias
Identity in/and the Medical Bay
Representation, presence, and absence of the cognitively atypical
Personhood, Personality, and Memory
Neuro-Treatments and Decisions
Neuro-Substance use and abuse
Neuroenhancement and the journey thereto
Neuro-Perfection (and atypicalities, disabilities, GATTACA, etc.)
Neuro-inva/sion/sive (unwarranted or unwelcome)
Neuro-manipulation and consciousness (Data, HAL, and the disembodied)
Neuro-augmentation (Chuck, Neo, Barclay)
Star Trek and The Borg (Picard’s rescue, rehab, and consent, Hugh, disconnecting Seven and consent)
Babylon 5 and the Psy Corps (e.g., mind as weaponry, telepathy as a trait)
Language and cognition
Science fiction and problem solving (how societies reason, justify, and engage ecology, economy, etc., through [imposed?] thought systems)
Genre analysis, tropes, figures, projects, the extent of the theme through {u/dis}topia
Single author interrogations, single series interrogations, comparisons and contrasts
Single ethical theorist applications to single series, comparisons and contrasts

The Center for Cognition and Neuroethics—a joint affiliation between the Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience and the University of Michigan-Flint Philosophy Department—will host this two-day conference. The first day will be dedicated to cognition, and the next, neuroethics (to whatever extent accepted abstracts allow). The talks will be limited to 15 minutes in order to sponsor a space for conversation and further exploration of ideas.


March 20, 2015
March 21, 2015


Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroscience
4800 Saginaw St
Flint, MI 48507 United States
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