In Oliver Sacks’ famous book An Anthropologist on Mars, an individual with high-functioning autism remarks that they feel “like an anthropologist on Mars”, because they felt that their interactions with others were somewhat analogous to interviewing Martians. Although I do not feel like my interactions with the neuroscience-types are alien like (however if you observed some of the high tech tools in the corporate exhibition you may think otherwise), but I find myself as being more of an active participant-observer – slightly more than the proverbial fly on the wall – absorbing the culture and sociology of neuroscience meetings amidst the deep abyss of corporations pushing their products and the vast landscape of posters stretching as far as the eye can see (which change daily, I might add).
Nonetheless, perhaps I am the Martian. My field of study – neuroethics – often evokes awkward faces amongst the individuals with whom I interact at this meeting (or even when I claim qualitative research has rigor). It is my aim that neuroethics – or rather, the social, philosophical, and policy issues in the brain sciences – will one day in the future not elicit an awkward glare by neuroscientists but rather an emotional embrace.
As I write this, I am sitting in the room where the Social Roundtable is about to take place. The room is almost full. This is a good sign. I will report on this mini-symposium next.