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Invertebrate minds: from spiders to octopuses | LSE Festival

Hosted by LSE Festival: Power and Politics

In-person and online public event (Wolfson Theatre, Cheng Kin Ku Building)


Sam Beckbessinger

Sam Beckbessinger

Professor Jonathan Birch

Professor Jonathan Birch

Professor Elli Leadbeater

Professor Elli Leadbeater

Daria Zakharova

Daria Zakharova


Dr Bryan Roberts

Dr Bryan Roberts

Human beings are part of a vast sentient world full of conscious creatures, and even those of us far away from centres of political power have immense influence over huge numbers of animal lives - influence which we can choose to exercise for good or ill. 

While societies are becoming more conscious of issues around animal welfare, poorly understood invertebrate animals - including insects such as bees, arachnids including spiders, and sea creatures including octopuses - are often overlooked and underestimated. What can we do to protect their welfare, and what steps are proportionate?  

Meet our speakers and chair  

Sam Beckbessinger (@beckbessinger) is the author of the bestselling Manage Your Money Like a Fucking Grownup and the novel Girls of Little Hope (co-authored with Dale Halvorsen). Her interactive story about climate change, Survive the Century, was featured in New Scientist and Gizmodo. She teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University, writes kids' TV and picture books, once wrote for Marvel, and is weirdly obsessed with spreadsheets.  

Jonathan Birch (@birchlse) is Professor of Philosophy at the LSE and Principal Investigator (PI) on the Foundations of Animal Sentience project. In 2021, he led a "Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans" that led to invertebrate animals including octopuses, crabs and lobsters being included in the UK government's Sentience Bill. In addition to his interest in animal sentience, cognition and welfare, he also has a longstanding interest in the evolution of altruism and social behaviour. His first book, The Philosophy of Social Evolution, was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. 

Elli Leadbeater (@ElliLeadbeater1) is Professor of Biological Sciences at the Royal Holloway, interested in the ecology and evolution of social animals, particularly bees. Her research group studies both fundamental questions about communication and social behaviour, and applied questions in pollinator conservation. 

Daria Zakharova (@DariaZakharova9) is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at LSE. She is interested in biological and artificial minds. Together with an interdisciplinary team, Daria has created the art installation “In search of Spider Consciousness” for Nowhere Festival in 2023, which invites people to enter the head of a giant Portia spider to discover the mind of an arthropod. Together with her artistic collaborators, she will be showcasing the VR version of the installation as part of the LSE Festival exhibition “Displays of Power”, offering an immersive experience into the artistic interpretation of Portia’s cognition to the guests. 

Bryan Roberts (@SoulPhysics) is Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, LSE. He specialises in the foundations of physics. 

More about the event

This event is part of the LSE Festival: Power and Politics running from Monday 10 to Saturday 15 June 2024, with a series of events exploring how power and politics shape our world. Booking for all Festival events will open on Monday 13 May.  

The Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method (@LSEPhilosophy) was founded by Karl Popper in 1946 and is renowned for a type of philosophy that is both continuous with the sciences and socially relevant.

Hashtag for this event: #LSEFestival  

From time to time there are changes to event details so we strongly recommend that if you plan to attend this event you check back on this listing on the day of the event. 

How can I attend? Add to calendar

This event is part of the LSE Festival: Power and Politics. The event is free and open to all, but a ticket is required. The event will be hybrid, with an in-person audience and an online audience.

Register here for the in-person in event

If you would like to attend online, register you can register for all events at LSE Festival online events.

To find out more about Festival bookings, please visit the ticket information page or email

This event will be streamed live on YouTube

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