Home > Website archive > Public events > Events > 2016 > 02 > Out of our Bodies: can we ever free consciousness?

Out of our Bodies: can we ever free consciousness?

LSE Department of Social Psychology and NERRI Literary Festival discussion

Date: Saturday 27 February 2016
Time: 7-8.30pm
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speakers: Ned Beauman, Dr Kate Devlin, Professor Nicholas Humphrey
Chair:  Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch

While social psychologists and cognitive scientists affirm that minds do not exist separated from biological and social systems, our human utopias have always dreamt of a disembodied, free-floating consciousness. William Gibson invented cyberspace in 1984 and blew our minds away in Neuromancer:  for the young rustlers, digitally enhanced cowboys  ‘jacked into a custom cyberspace desk that projected disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix…the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat.” Falling into the prison of flesh was the Fall and disembodying cognition the picture of our human future.

From Neuromancer to The Peripheral, Gibson tells the story of multiple interfaces between bodies-machines-environments-consciousness. Can consciousness exist independently of our human social selves? Will machines ever possess it? Does consciousness require a material base of any kind at all? Could it genuinely fly free of physical matter?

Ned Beauman's debut novel, Boxer, Beetle, won the Writers' Guild Award for Best Fiction Book and the Goldberg Prize for Outstanding Debut Fiction. His second novel, The Teleportation Accident, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Encore Award and a Somerset Maugham Award. His third novel, Glow, was published in 2014. He has been chosen by the Culture Show as one of the twelve best new British novelists and by Granta as one of the 20 best British novelists under 40. His work has been translated into more than ten languages.

Kate Devlin (@drkatedevlin) is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on perception and cognition in the fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), investigating how people interact with, and react to, technology. She is currently Treasurer of the UK’s Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB), and is on the steering committee of the European Society for Cognitive Systems (arising from EUCog). She is currently working on cognition, sex, gender and sexuality and how these might be incorporated into cognitive systems.

Nicholas Humphrey is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at LSE, Visiting Professor of Philosophy at New College of the Humanities and Senior Member, Darwin College, Cambridge. His books include Consciousness Regained, The Inner Eye, A History of the Mind, Leaps of Faith, The Mind Made Flesh, Seeing Red and most recently Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness. He has been the recipient of several honours, including the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, the British Psychological Society’s book award, the Pufendorf Medal and the International Mind and Brain Prize .

Sandra Jovchelovitch is a Professor in the Department of Social Psychology at LSE. 

The Department of Social Psychology (@PsychologyLSE) is a leading international centre dedicated to consolidating and expanding the contribution of social psychology to the understanding and knowledge of key social, economic, political and cultural issues.

NERRI (Neuro-Enhancement: Responsible Research and Innovation) (@NERRI_eu) is a three-year project supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme which aims to contribute to the introduction of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in neuro-enhancement (NE) in the European Area and to shape a normative framework underpinning the governance of neuro-enhancement technologies.

This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2016, taking place from Monday 22 - Saturday 27 February 2016, with the theme 'Utopias'.

This event will be followed by a complimentary drinks reception to celebrate the closing night of the Festival.

Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users: #LSELitFest

Podcast & Video

A podcast & video of this event is available to download from Out of our Bodies: can we ever free consciousness?

Podcasts and videos of many LSE events can be found at the LSE Public Lectures and Events: podcasts and videos channel.

Twitter and Facebook

You can get immediate notification on the availability of an event podcast by following LSE public lectures and events on Twitter, which will also inform you about the posting of transcripts and videos, the announcement of new events and other important event updates. Event updates and other information about what's happening at LSE can be found on the LSE's Facebook page.


This event has been certified for CPD purposes by the CPD Certification Service. Self-Assessment Record forms will be made available for delegates wishing to record further learning and knowledge enhancement for Continuing Personal and Professional Development (CPD) purposes. For delegates who wish to obtain a CPD Certificate of Attendance, it is the responsibility of delegates to register their details with a LSE steward at the end of the event and as of 1 September 2014 a certificate will be sent within 28 days of the date of the event attended by the CPD Certification Service.  If a delegate fails to register their details at the event, it will not prove possible to issue a certificate. (For queries relating to CPD Certificates of attendance after a request please phone 0208 840 4383 or email info@cpduk.co.uk).