Friday, November 27, 2009

Toward a Science of Consciousness

When I'm asked what scientific topic fascinates me the most, I usually cite consciousness studies. Certainly, the nature of consciousness -- and the question of why we have internal lives, of why it is like something to be alive -- is at the heart of much of my fiction, perhaps most notably these days in my Aurora Award-winning FlashForward (basis for the ABC TV series), but also including my Nebula Award-winning The Terminal Experiment, my Hugo Award-winning Hominids and its sequels, my John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning Mindscan, my Hugo Award-nominated Factoring Humanity, and, of course, my current WWW trilogy, beginning with Wake, about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness.

As regular readers of this blog know, I give lots of keynote addresses ... but, given the above, I am truly thrilled beyond measure to announce that I will be a keynote speaker at the ninth biennial conference Toward a Science of Consciousness, which will take place April 13-17, 2010, at the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona.

My novels have often alluded to the work of Sir Roger Penrose and Dr. Stuart Hameroff in relation to the quantum-mechanical nature of consciousness. And although I did meet a bunch of super-cool TV stars when I was out in Los Angeles for two weeks earlier this month working on FlashForward, truly the highlight of the trip was the five-hour group dinner out with Stuart Hameroff (outdoors, at the wonderful Cat & Fiddle pub), arranged by my dear friends film director James Kerwin and actress/producer Chase Masterson.

Stuart and I had never met before, but we hit it off fabulously, and he and the rest of the programming committee have now invited me to give a keynote at the Tucson conference.

Independently, I've now got Stuart consulting on the FlashForward TV series. :)

Anyway, if you're looking for a fascinating way to spend some time in April, come to the conference!

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Podcast: Sawyer neurosciences talk at Penn

On Wednesday, May 6, 2009, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer gave an invited 90-minute talk at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience [pictured] at the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn"). Sawyer was the first science-fiction writer ever invited to speak at the Center.

Sawyer's talk delved into the cognitive science, neuroscience, and other areas that informed the portrayal of a sentient World Wide Web in his 2009 novel Wake and the uploaded consciousnesses in his 2005 John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning novel Mindscan.

SPOILER WARNING: His talk contains major spoilers for both books, giving away significant plot points; please do not listen to the talk until you've read these books. (However, he talks about them separately -- first Wake, then Mindscan.)

The talk is here as an MP3 file.

"Thank you again for making the trip to Penn! It was wonderful to finally meet you, after enjoying so many of your books. Your talk exceeded my fondest hopes -- it was so clear and interesting and provocative! -- and the group adored it."

-- Martha J. Farah, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

"I enjoyed your talk immensely. It fit the bill perfectly in showing how excellent speculative hard science fiction can be informed by and inform those of us in the cognitive neurosciences."

-- Anjan Chatterjee, M.D.
Professor of Neurology

Information on booking Robert J. Sawyer as a speaker is here.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: , , , , ,