Public Dialogues

Public Dialogues New Series – 2017 Events

YHouse continues its program of lectures, events, and conversations on exciting and provocative topics at a number of venues around New York City.

Spring dates include:

  • Friday, March 24th at 9:30pm: Cabaret Cinema at the Rubin Museum of Art presents “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – introduced by YHouse member and scientist Liza SolomonovaTickets available for sale here.
  • Friday, April 7th at 9:30pm: Cabaret Cinema at the Rubin Museum of Art presents “The Iron Giant” – introduced by YHouse friend and Emmy Award winning filmmaker Anthony Giacchino (“The Giant’s Dream”). Tickets available for sale here.

Chasing Consciousness Series – 2016 Events

The series of events “Chasing Consciousness: from cells to societies, neuroscience to machine awareness” took place from September 16 through December 9, 2016, on Fridays between 5:00 – 6:00pm in the Art Lounge of the Rubin Museum of Art (directions available at the bottom of this page).

Past events 

Friday, September 16: “Origins of Awareness” with Ryota Kanai (Araya Brain Imaging), Caleb Scharf (Columbia University) and Erik Hoel (Columbia University)

Friday, September 23: “The hard problem of consciousness or the hard problem of matter” with Hedda Hassel Morch (University of Connecticut/Yale University)

Friday, September 30: “Uncovering consciousness in the healing brain” with Niko Schiff (Brain Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell)

Friday, October 7: “Different ways of knowing – unveiling the mystery of consciousness through science and art” with Marcelo Gleiser (Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement)

Friday, October 14: “Sending Artificial Intelligences to the Stars” with Ed Turner (Princeton University)

Friday, October 21: “The Four Compounding Exponentials of AI” with Hod Lipson (Columbia University)

Friday, November 11: “From Knowing What You Have to Waking Up to What You Are” with Piet Hut (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)

Friday, November 18: “Waking Up to Dreaming: What Sleep Can Teach Us About Consciousness” with Liza Solomonova (Dream and Nightmare Laboratory, University of Montreal)

Friday, December 2: “Awakened Realism: Insights from Japanese Philosophy” with Yuko Ishihara (Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen)

Friday, December 9: “Can a Robot Feel?” with Susan Schneider (University of Connecticut/Yale University)

 



Friday, September 16: “Origins of Awareness”

Speakers: Ryota Kanai (Araya Brain Imaging), Caleb Scharf (Columbia University) and Erik Hoel (Columbia University)

Moderated by: George Musser (Scientific American).

Three leading scientists — Ryota Kanai (neuroscientist and CEO of Araya Brain Imaging), Erik Hoel (complex systems and consciousness researcher at Columbia University), and Caleb Scharf (origins of life and astrobiology researcher at Columbia University) — will discuss an area that current neuroscientific research tends to ignore: awareness. How do we become cognizant of our surroundings and our selves? How do our brains juggle the myriad inputs and decide what to focus on? How could a machine achieve the same functions? Kanai, Hoel, and Scharf are founding members of YHouse, a new New York-based brain research institute. Moderated by the award-winning journalist George Musser, author of Spooky Action at a Distance and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory.



Friday, September 23: “The hard problem of consciousness or the hard problem of matter”

Speaker: Hedda Hassel Morch (The Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness, NYU)

Moderated by: Erik P Hoel (Columbia University)

Join philosopher of mind Hedda Hassel Morch (NYU) as she discusses the latest in philosophical thinking about the nature of consciousness. Her thesis: in order to solve the problem of consciousness some deep change in our understanding of matter is required. As Stephen Hawking said, there must be something that “breathes fire into the equations” of physics. What is this thing that realizes the structure of physics? Consciousness seems like a possible answer. Hedda Hassel Morch will discuss these issues with a founding member of YHouse, Erik P Hoel, a scientist who is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University.



Friday, September 30: “Uncovering consciousness in the healing brain” 

Speaker: Niko Schiff (Brain Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell)

Moderated by: Catherine Chung (Writer)

Nicholas (“Niko”) Schiff, the Jerold B. Katz Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, will discuss recent advances in understanding how brain imaging and electrophysiological measurements are advancing to identify consciousness and cognition in the injured brain, as well as the challenges ahead of bringing out latent capacities for communication.


Friday, October 7: “Different ways of knowing – unveiling the mystery of consciousness through science and art” 

Speakers: Marcelo Gleiser (The Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement, Dartmouth) and Julia Buntaine (SciArt Center/Rutgers University) 

We humans spend a lot of time wondering about our identities, about how we relate to one another and to the world around us. The sciences, the arts, and the various fields of inquiry grouped as the humanities, all attempt to build upon this quest, bringing meaning to our existence. After centuries of bigotry and division, there is a new vision emerging, bringing together these “different ways of knowing” as complementary ways to make sense of who we are. Join physicist, writer, and director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth, Marcelo Gleiser and artist, co-founder and director of SciArt Center, Julia Buntaine explore this complementarity of knowing, starting with the general question “What is Reality?” in hopes of forging new paths of mutual engagement between the disciplines.


Friday, October 14: “Sending Artificial Intelligences to the Stars” 

Speakers: Ed Turner (Princeton University) and Caleb Scharf (Columbia University)

The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative (BSI) is an ambitious program to send tiny spacecraft to nearby stars within a few decades, traveling at about twenty-percent the speed of light. Starshot will combine advances in micro-electronics, nano-tech and photonics (lasers). Join Ed Turner (BSI Advisory Board/Princeton/YHouse) and Caleb Scharf (Columbia/YHouse) in discussing how Starshot will work, and how these interstellar probes are likely to carry artificial, perhaps sentient intelligences. Will machine based AIs be better for exploring and occupying the Galaxy than biological intelligences? It may turn out that the stars will belong to synthetic awarenesses – our very different descendants.


Friday, October 21: “The Four Compounding Exponentials of AI” 

Speaker: Hod Lipson (Columbia University)

Moderated by: Olaf Witkowski (Earth-Life Science Institute/Institute for Advanced Study)

Hod Lipson, Director of Columbia University’s Creative Machine Labs and a world-renowned expert on robotics, computer learning, self-driving cars, and 3D-printing, will talk about where artificial intelligence is leading us, and itself, faster and faster.


Friday, November 11: “From Knowing What You Have to Waking Up to What You Are”

Speaker: Piet Hut (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)

Moderated by: Barnaby Marsh (Harvard University/Institute for Advanced Study)

Here is a transcript of the dialogue. The video recording is available here.

The original foundation for the success of science is its method of objective empirical research. Everything in the world tends to be treated as objects that are independently given, whether studied by different subjects or using diverse interactions. Quantum mechanics has taught us that objects and interactions, quite surprisingly, cannot neatly be separated. Whether in turn subjects are more than intelligent objects, and in how far they can be meaningfully separated from objects, are open questions. Join Piet Hut, Professor of astrophysics and Head of the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, as he explores these questions by contrasting philosophical reasoning from Kant to Husserl with scientific notions of emergence.


Friday, November 18: “Waking Up to Dreaming: What Sleep Can Teach Us About Consciousness”

Speaker: Liza Solomonova (Dream and Nightmare Laboratory, University of Montreal)

Moderated by: Niko Schiff (Brain Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell)

Recording/live stream available here.

Sleep and dreams are often thought of as passive disengagement from reality. However, there is a variety of conscious experiences that are possible during sleep. One example is lucid dreaming, when it is possible to know that you are dreaming and to control the dream experience to some extent. Dreaming has also been thought of as a process by which the sleeping mind makes sense of waking experiences. Join mind scientist Liza Solomonova (Dream and Nightmare Laboratory, University of Montreal) as she examines some of the phenomena of consciousness in sleep and a possible role for sleep and dreaming in self awareness and insight.


Friday, December 2: “Awakened Realism: Insights from Japanese Philosophy”

Speaker: Yuko Ishihara (Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen)

Moderated by: Christopher Stawski (University of Pennsylvania)

In the mesmerizing experience of the moon, glimmering so impressively in the dark sky, is there a self? Am *I* there in such experience prior to reflection and thoughts about the moon? Most of the Western philosophical tradition has contended that I *am* there however implicit it may be. Nishida Kitaro, the most influential Japanese philosopher of the last century, has argued otherwise. In the moment of that experience, there is not yet subject or object, I or moon. There is absolutely no-thing but the beauty of the “moon” actualizing itself through “me.” Join philosopher Yuko Ishihara (Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen) as she elaborates on how Nishida points to the very ground of our experience whereby we awaken to the most direct encounter with reality.


Friday, December 9: “Can a Robot Feel?”

Speaker: Susan Schneider (University of Connecticut/Yale University)

Moderated by: Ed Turner (Princeton University)

If and when you encounter an AI, it is best to look beyond superficialities, like a humanlike appearance. Perhaps only biological beings can have experience, or perhaps superintelligent AI doesn’t need to be conscious. Join Susan Schneider, an associate professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Connecticut and a member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, as she discusses her proposal for a test for determining whether AI can be conscious.


Directions

The Rubin Museum of Art (rubinmuseum.org)
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
Get directions on Google Maps

* Upon arriving, please notify the front desk that you are attending Chasing Consciousness.

Supporters

Project Y-0 receives generous support from individuals and organizations, including Progress Technologies, Inc.

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** Please note that by participating in this event, you grant permission to the organizers to photograph, film and record this event and post photographs and video footage thereof on the social media such as YouTube. ( Images – printed, film/video and other electronic media – will only be used in the promotional materials and retained for the stated purpose.)