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AISB event Bulletin Item

CALL FOR PAPERS: The 21st Century Body Symposium, 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 limitless.

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 Century?
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; 
 Cognitive science;
 Converging technologies (nano-bio-info-cogno);
 Ethical and social implications of advances in emerging technologies;
 Human enhancement; 
 Implant technology;
 Medical anthropology;
Organising committee:

 Matteo Bregonzio, PhD research candidate, Computer Science Department, Queen Mary University, London

 Dr Yasemin J. Erden, CBET, St Mary's University College, Twickenham,

 Deborah Gale,MA, Kings College London

 Matt James,Director, BioCentre

 Alison MacDonald,PhD research candidate, Medical Anthropology, University College London

 Aaron Parkhurst,PhD research candidate, Medical Anthropology, University College London


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 symposium

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