David Eagleman NeuroscientistBaylor College of Medicine
David Eagleman is a neuroscientist best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia, and the intersection of neuroscience and the legal system. His book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, explores the neuroscience under the hood of the conscious mind—in other words, all the aspects of neural function of which we have no awareness or access. As he says, “It turns out your conscious mind — the part you think of as you — is really the smallest part of what’s happening in your brain, and usually the last one in line to find out any information.” Eagleman dismantles the common perception that the brain acts as a unified whole, instead pointing out that the brain is governed by a “band of rivals”: many different systems with conflicting goals. This band of rivals manages to work together thanks to a figurative overseer that we call the self. Eagleman is also passionate about how neuroscience challenges fundamental notions at the heart of our criminal justice system. Given that we are not in conscious command of most of the brain networks controlling our behavior, how can we be held responsible for our actions? Eagleman argues that the only rational course is to ask “What can we do from here?” and to create customized sentencing, tailored rehabilitation, and refined incentive structuring. In 2012, he spoke at the Being Human conference in San Francisco.