From the Neuro-Bureau: Neuroscience, Ethics and Morality

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by Mauktik Kulkarni on Sunday, November 16, 2014


Session type

Technical level


Do we have free will? If we do, what are we doing with it? What is consciousness? Do dogs and cats have consciousness? What about ants? Are we rational creatures? If we are, what happens to our brains when we are in love? Why does logic go out the window when we are in love? Does neuroscience have answers to these mind-bending questions? Will neuroscience someday allow us to literally bend someone’s mind?

This lecture attempts to raise public awareness about the latest experiments in neuroscience and their implications on ethics and morality with a fun, interactive approach without getting bogged down by the technical jargon of a scientific talk.


Over the past three decades, neuroscience has emerged as one of the most intriguing fields of research. Often termed as the final frontier, the brain is the most complicated, fascinating, and least understood organ of all the biological systems. In addition to developing new tools to understand the inner workings of the brain, neuroscience has also started posing some tough social and ethical issues related to science. The implications of new neuroscientific discoveries and inventions are not limited to the medical field. Rather, new techniques aimed at “reading” human thoughts to understand what actions they are planning and directly controlling thoughts and actions are bringing up philosophical issues about free will, relationships and our belief systems.

Starting from first principles, the lecture moves on to the basic building blocks of information processing in the brain and then on to the latest experiments with somewhat exciting, somewhat weird and somewhat scary implications for the society.


An inquisitive audience is a must. An LCD projector, speakers and a mic will help. :)

Speaker bio

TGP 2014 attendees might remember me as the guy who talked about his one-year, 36-country, round-the-world backpacking trip. I am an author, traveler, neuroscientist and a film-maker.

YourStory article:

I routinely deliver lectures on entrepreneurship, innovations, wanderlust, neuroscience, and anything else that catches my fancy. Here is a short list of lectures I have given in the past:

Invited Lecture - “Film-making as Entrepreneurship” (TiECon - Central India, Nagpur)
Under the ‘Romancing Entrepreneurship’ theme, this talk focused on my journey from a neuroscientist to a globe-trotter to the executive producer of ‘Riding on a Sunbeam,’ a travel documentary exploring the social and cultural contradictions of India, directed by National-award winner Brahmanand Singh.

Invited Lecture - “Carpe Diem! – Things You do not Learn in Classrooms” (Vishveshwarya National Institute of Technology, The Loft in Pune, Rotary Club in Pune, etc.)
This lecture highlighted the places visited, intriguing people encountered, and knowledge acquired during a one-year, round-the-world backpacking trip in which I managed to visit 36 countries across all continents.

Invited Lecture - “The Brave New World of Neuroscience” (The Louisville Free Public Library)
As a part of the “Neuroscientists in Your Neighborhood” lecture series, aimed at raising public awareness of issues related to neuroscience, the lecture focused on the latest discoveries in neuroscience and their social and ethical implications.

Invited Lecture - “Peace and Violence in Guatemala” (University of Louisville)
As a part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, the university had organized a lecture series followed by a panel discussion on the political and economic climate in Guatemala. The lecture focused on my experiences in Guatemala and what role economic development can play in improving the political climate.

Invited Lecture - “Autobiography? Writing ‘A Ghost of Che – A Motorcycle Ride Through Space, Time, Life and Love’” (University of Louisville)
For the 39th annual Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture, a panel discussion was organized for “The Creative Process of Biographical Latin American Fiction.” As one of the three panelists, my talk focused on the process of refining and enrichment of autobiographical works.

Invited Lecture - “Ventures and Adventures” (Crane House Asia Institute, Marathi Vishwa (New York/New Jersey), University of Louisville, Carmichael’s Bookstore)
This lecture focused on the exciting adventures, exhilarating experiences, and insights gleaned from a solo, 5000-mile motorcycle trip in South America and their applicability in growing a start-up venture.