The Transformations of the Human: How New and Emerging Technologies Affect How Human Beings View Themselves, Others and Their Lives.

April 3, 2019

2pm USC

Motorists who navigated their way around Los Angeles 25 years ago were guided by a mental map of the city. That and a Thomas Guide, a spiral-bound, often dog-eared and salsa-stained book of maps that sat on the passenger seat.

But those maps inside our heads are rapidly being replaced by those in our GPS apps. How, if at all, does that change us as human beings? Does it rewire our brains in subtle ways? Do we look at where we live differently? To what extent, if any, does it change us into better or worse people?

These are a small sample of the kinds of questions that scholars from USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the 2018–19 USC Dornsife Berggruen Fellows will wrestle with at a discussion titled The Transformations of the Human on April 3 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The gathering will examine how new technologies are changing how we understand ourselves as individuals, in relationships and as a species. Topics will include how we continue to integrate technology with our minds and bodies, and what will it mean to be human in the future. (Are we still homo sapiens if our brains are supercharged by microchips?) The panelists will also look at the coming implications of genomics, artificial intelligence and neuroscience for understanding who we are.

“Our current language for what it means to be a human being is increasingly inadequate,” said Nils Gilman, vice president of programs for the Berggruen Institute.

The L.A.-based Berggruen Institute was founded in 2010 to develop foundational ideas about how to reshape political and social institutions at a time of enormous global change and when so many of our institutions seem inadequate. It is distinguished from many think tanks in that its fellows do just one thing: They think. There’s no partisan agenda — just the pursuit of knowledge.

USC Dornsife entered into a collaboration with Berggruen Institute to host visiting scholars as a means to broaden its pursuit of answers to fundamental questions about human existence. The fellows meet regularly with USC Dornsife scholars to share findings and explore new areas of inquiry.

“While we spend a lot of time talking about technological innovation, there isn’t as much attention paid to corresponding innovations in political philosophy, the history of ideas and ethics. But these areas are fundamental to understanding changes in the way we live,” said Andrew Lakoff, USC Dornsife divisional dean for social sciences and professor of sociology.

“I see the fellowship program as a launching pad for a richer interaction between our scholars and other thinkers in the region and an opportunity to give them a public platform.”

Expert panelists

The USC Dornsife panelists include:

  • Antonio Damasio, University Professor, professor of psychology, philosophy and neurology, and David Dornsife Chair in Neuroscience;

  • Susanna Berger, assistant professor of art history.

The panelists from the 2018–19 Berggruen Fellows at USC Dornsife will include:

  • Hannah Landecker, professor of sociology at UCLA;

  • Josh Berson, author of Computable Bodies: Instrumented Life and the Human Somatic Niche(Bloomsbury Academic, 2015); and

  • Helene Mialet, associate professor of science and technology studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Click here to register for the event.