Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mind and its Potential - November 2013, Sydney

DY, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, Cordelia Fine, Michael Corballis
Last month I spoke at the 'Mind and its Potential' conference, billed as a chance to "an exceptional forum exploring the amazing potential of the human mind."

Holding forth on distraction.
I didn't see the whole conference, but my afternoon was good fun. I began with a talk, based loosely on my book Distraction. You can get the gist from this Sydney Morning Herald essay. Here's a sample:
An ordinary suburban cafe, with an ordinary sullen teenage waitress and faux-friendly barista. The tables are unvarnished barrels. The cups are marmalade jars. And the coffee is bitter, weak and overpriced. 
Sitting at the barrel next to me is a thirty-something dad with his two school-age kids. The boy is staring down at his iPad in its blue cover, tapping the screen like he's sending a telegram. The girl is holding up her iPad in its pink cover, watching a film. Her headphones are pink too. They say nothing. 
Their father, his leg bouncing up and down like a dog being scratched, is licking his thumb and forefinger, and slowly turning the pages of the newspaper. But he's not really reading the newspaper, because he keeps getting messages on his smartphone. Every few minutes there's another chime, and he instantly checks the screen, reads, types, swipes then puts it down. By the time their miniature artisan pizzas land on the barrel, the father is checking his phone before the messages arrive -- two minutes is too long. 
Explaining the myth of the 'inner mind'
or acting as a monkey? You decide.
Then I joined a panel, 'Are Women Really from Venus and Men from Mars?' I was speaking alongside Cordelia Fine, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young and Michael Corballis, all of whom are better qualified than I to talk about brain science. Still, it was a lively conversation -- you can read a précis here

I also chatted to memory champion and philosophy student Daniel Kilov, which was nice. You'll hear more from Daniel, I'm sure.

(Photos: courtesy of Jenny Templin)

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