What do you mean when you say the word “I”?
Typically, when we say this, we are referring to a conceptualised self; a story we have about ourselves, based on past experiences and what other people have told us about who we are.
Identification with this story gives us the sensation of being a “skin encapsulated ego”; cut off, and separate from the world around us.
Arguably, this identification with the ego is the root cause of many of the problems we face today; whether it’s the climate crisis, rising rates of anxiety and depression, or increases in inequality.
But is this the right way to define ourselves?
Is it scientifically accurate?
Or might this individualised view of ourselves be out of date, and no longer relevant, given what recent scientific developments have since revealed about human nature?
In this online conference, we’ll explore how insights from neuroscience, consciousness studies, and evolutionary science can offer a more connected and holistic vision of the “Self”.
Annahita believes that the dramatic rise in mental illness and how we treat those who are mentally ill exposes a dysfunction inherent within our society. She believes there’s a place for psychiatric medication, but emphasises that we need to move away from a standardised and restrictive approach to mental illness that is over reliant on sedation and dampening feelings and desires. Based on this premise, Annahita argues that contemporary mental health treatments need reviewing and revising.
Annahita asks attendees to consider a world where people battling with terminal illness, trauma, stress or depression have access to a range of evidence-based self-transcendent treatments (inclusive of nature, music, and mindfulness-based therapies, and positive technologies and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy). In this talk, Annahita draws on applied research in psychology to make a case for VR-assisted self-transcendent treatments. She summarises some of the extant evidence in this area, explains what the Virtual Reality Overview Effect is, the rationale and theoretical framework behind it and summarises the mission and milestones reached.
Dr Annahita Nezami, CPsychol, DPsych, MSc, BSc, is a counselling psychologist providing psychological consultation, assessment and therapy to organisations, individuals, and couples. Her areas of interest include space psychology, higher states of consciousness, wellbeing, performance, neuropsychology and trauma. Annahita lectures nationally and internationally, and has presented her ideas about the Overview Effect and mental health on BBC Radio 4, Central St Martin’s, UCL, and TEDx. She researched the therapeutic value of the Overview Effect as part of her doctoral studies. After completing her studies, she founded VR Overview Effect (VROE); the first tech-based multi-sensory company that designs and researches treatments based on the self-transcendent experience of the Overview Effect. You can learn more about Annahita’s work at www.vr-overview-effect.co.uk or follow VROE on Instagram @vr_overvieweffect or on twitter @DrAnnahita.
Frank White has authored numerous books on topics ranging from space exploration to climate change to artificial intelligence. His best-known work, “The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution”, is considered by many to be a seminal work in the field of space exploration. A film called “Overview,” based largely on his work, has had nearly 8 million plays on Vimeo. Since his book was published in 1987, “the Overview Effect” has become a standard term for describing the spaceflight experience. The fourth edition of The Overview Effect, including original interviews with 31 astronauts, was published earlier this year. You can learn more about Frank’s work at: https://frankwhiteauthor.com/
The concept of society as an organism stretches back to antiquity and was a mainstay of 19th and early 20th century social science. Likewise, 19th century evolutionary thinkers such as Spencer and Lamarck envisioned evolution as in part a conscious process and even Darwin shared these views to a degree.
Both of these concepts–society as an organism and conscious evolution– became marginalized and even taboo within evolutionary biology during the middle of the 20th century. Group selection seemed to be authoritatively rejected and all adaptations were explained as for the good of individuals and their selfish genes. And evolution was said to have no purpose whatsoever: Variation is random and only the immediate environment does the selecting.
Today, these seemingly authoritative positions themselves appear outdated. The individualistic focus can be seen as part of a broader intellectual trend of individualism, which also pervaded economics and the social sciences during the same period. And the denial of any conscious component to evolution was overly influenced by mendelian genetics, as opposed to other evolutionary processes such as human cultural evolution.
In my talk, I will show that the concepts of society as an organism and conscious evolution can be fully validated by modern evolutionary science, providing a practical framework for consciously evolving a planetary superorganism.
David Sloan Wilson is one of the world’s foremost evolutionary thinkers and a gifted communicator about evolution to the general public. He is SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. In addition to his teaching and research, David is President of Prosocial World – an organisation which aims to catalyze positive cultural change to consciously evolve who we are, how we connect with each other, and how we interact with the planet.
David is passionate about making evolution more accessible to a wider audience, and was invited to speak with the Dalai Lama about his work in 2019. He is the author of several books on evolutionary theory, including: “Atlas Hugged” (his first novel), “This View of Life”, “Evolution for Everyone”, “Darwin’s Cathedral”, “Does Altruism Exist?”, and the co-author of “Prosocial”, along with Paul Atkins and Steven Hayes. You can learn more about David’s work at https://www.thisviewoflife.com and https://www.prosocial.world/.
The ‘hard problem’ of consciousness is very topical in neuroscience today. It asks why our brains, which function unconsciously for the most part, require consciousness at all. It also asks how the subjective stuff of experience can be inserted into our mechanistic account of brain functioning. There seems to be no place or need for subjective experience in the physical universe.
In this talk, Mark Solms will outline the novel approach to this problem that he has taken in his recent work as reported in his new book, the Hidden Spring: a journey to the source of consciousness. The argument begins with the claim that it is a mistake to take human cognition as our model example of consciousness. Why tackle the problem from its most complex end? If we begin with the simplest forms of animal consciousness, he argues, the ‘hard problem’ becomes less hard.
Professor Mark Solms is best known for his discovery of the forebrain mechanisms of dreaming, and for his pioneering integration of psychoanalytic theories and methods with those of modern neuroscience. He holds the Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital (Departments of Psychology and Neurology). His other positions have included: Honorary Lecturer in Neurosurgery at St. Bartholomew’s & Royal London School of Medicine, Director of the International Neuro-Psychoanalysis Centre, London, and Director of the Arnold Pfeffer Center for Neuro-Psychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.
Professor Solms’ books include: Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis (winner of the NAAP’s Gradiva Award Best Book, Science Category in 2001), The Brain and The Inner World (2002), and most recently: Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness (2021).
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