*‘The 21st Century Body’

18th May 2012, London (Hosted by UCL)

Exciting developments in the life sciences and their application in
biotechnology are helping to provide pioneering cures and therapies for
inherited and degenerative diseases. Consider genomics and genetic based
therapies, neuroscience and neuropharmacology, ICT implants and
prosthetics, nanomedicine and care of the ageing and you will see how the
way in which we perceive ourselves and those around us is slowly being
recast. As our knowledge and its application continues to grow and expand,
the range, scope and magnitude of what we are able to achieve seems to be

This interdisciplinary symposium is convened in order to build capacity as
well as consolidate existing scholarship on perspectives on the human body
and identity in the face of new advances in emerging technologies.


Technology forecasters point to advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology
as an ‘enabling technology’ which opens up further opportunities when
combined with other technologies. This “convergence” of new emerging
technologies therefore becomes a matter of great debate. This is seen, for
example, when advances in nanoscience converge with developments
in biotechnology, which also utilise developments in information technology
to capture and simulate human abilities using artificial intelligence
systems and, more controversially, cognitive science. As the animal-human
distinction becomes increasingly blurred, it is plain to see the increasing
growth of human power over nature in all of its forms including traditional
and contemporary understanding about human nature itself. More than just
speculative science fiction, talk of brain implants and neural imaging,
cyborg enhancement and virtual reality simulation is suddenly becoming a
pressing reality. At this time we are faced with a key question: what does
it mean to be human in the 21st Century? A series of identity crises
emerge. Against the backdrop of developments in ICT, and especially in
virtual contexts we are keen to ensure that our identities are protected
and can be authenticated appropriately, without fear of them being
reconstructed by others. Likewise, concern is expressed over the question
of privacy and surveillance when we encounter new forms of identifying
technologies such as biometrics which could challenge our freedom
and dignity. As genetic and neuroscience technologies evolve, they provoke
and unsettle some of our traditional perceptions of who and what we are.

It is envisaged that this symposium will contribute to the conversation on
this theme and by drawing from insights and ideas from across the
disciplines, the aim will be to chart challenges to, and changes in
perceptions of identity and the human body in the 21st century.

Some key questions this symposium will aim to address include the following:

Is human identity being transformed, redefined or superseded through
new developments in medicine and technology?
Do these new emerging technologies present as radical and revolutionary
changes to how we see ourselves (as is sometimes claimed)? Or, are they in
fact no different to their predecessors?
How are we to evaluate or assess the moral significance of these new
technologies to our identity as humans?
What does it mean to have identity and to be identifiable in the 21st
Are new technologies helping to redefine what we recognise as the human
body? Are they in some ways helping to make the human body redundant? If
so, in what ways?
What are the social, ethical and policy implications of these changes, both
locally and globally, as we increasingly encounter the rapid expansion of
biotechnologies worldwide?
Is altering the shape and appearance of the body contributing to our loss
of contact with the body? How does this affect traditional ideas about the
mind/body distinction?

Suggested topics:

   -  Ageing and immortality;
   -  Artificial intelligence; the Turing test; machine understanding;
   -  Artificial life; computational biology;
   -  Biometrics;
   -  Cognitive science;
   -  Converging technologies (nano-bio-info-cogno);
   -  Ethical and social implications of advances in emerging technologies;
   -  Genetics;
   -  Human enhancement;
   -  Implant technology;
   -  Medical anthropology;
   -  Neuroscience.

Organising committee:

• Matteo Bregonzio, PhD research candidate, Computer Science Department,
Queen Mary University, London
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• Dr Yasemin J. Erden, CBET, St Mary's University College, Twickenham,
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• Deborah Gale,MA, King’s College London
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• Matt James,Director, BioCentre
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• Alison MacDonald,PhD research candidate, Medical Anthropology, University
College London
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• Aaron Parkhurst,PhD research candidate, Medical Anthropology, University
College London
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We invite submission of abstracts in the first instance, with a word limit
of around 500-750 words (maximum), and not including references. The
abstract should clearly outline main arguments and conclusions of the
paper. On the basis of these abstracts, the academic organising committee
will compose a short list of speakers to be invited to submit full-length
papers for presentation at the symposium, which will be held in London in
May 2012.

All abstracts must be submitted via EasyChair (in a Word attachment;
without inclusion of personal details to allow for blind reviewing):

Successful papers will be considered for inclusion in a special publication
on the same theme.


Tuesday 28th February 2012 Deadline for submission of abstracts (500-750
word limit).

Monday 30th April 2012 Final version of papers to be submitted ahead of

18th May 2012 Symposium, University College London


For more information on submissions, please contact the organising
committee directly.


The organising committee is grateful for the support provided by BioCentre
and the Department of Anthropology, University College London.


Details about registration will be released in due course. There will be no
fee for speakers or participants.

Dr Yasemin J. Erden
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Bioethics & Emerging Technologies
St Mary's University College
Waldegrave Road
Twickenham, TW1 4SX
United Kingdom

+44 208 240 4250