Human children are dependent longer than the young of any other species. Scientists used to believe babies were irrational and their thinking limited. New research suggests that even the youngest infants have powerful learning abilities; that toddlers analyze statistics and do experiments; that preschoolers use discoveries to imagine alternative futures; and that young children have a sophisticated grasp of morality. Babies, in fact, might be smarter, more thoughtful, and more conscious than adults.

SFI's 2013 Community Lecture series continues this evening, May 9, with psychologist, philosopher, author, and mother Alison Gopnik surveying insights from psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy that suggest our prolonged period of childhood helplessness is responsible for our uniquely human consciousness, and asks whether babies hold the answers to our most profound questions about love, morality, exploration, imagination…and what it means to be human.

Watch the video of Gopnik's lecture (79 minutes, May 9, 2013)

Hear Gopnik's interview on the Santa Fe Radio Cafe (May 8, 2013)

Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley and author of several books on child learning, including The Scientist in the Crib and The Philosophical Baby.

Next lecture: 

Wednesday, June 26, 7:30 p.m. MDT, James A. Little Theater: Why Is Time a One-Way Street? Leonard Susskind explains the paradox of time’s arrow and explores how physicists and cosmologists view time today. Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics.

SFI’s Community Lectures offer a window into the Institute’s research to understand the common patterns in physical, computational, biological, and social complex systems that underlie the most profound issues facing science and society today.

The 2013 SFI Community Lecture series is made possible by Los Alamos National Bank.

See the schedule of all upcoming SFI community events here.