Our 21st Century Brain

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventPublic lecture/debate/seminar/presentationAcademic


The brain underpins our basic instincts and needs, and behavioural responses to the world around us. The brain mediates our compassion, reason, and imagination which are reflected in great works of the arts and sciences. Yet our brain is also the source of distress, dysfunction, and malice. Despite centuries of recurring impacts of tribalism, racism, dehumanisation, and exclusion of ‘outsiders’, we continue to inflict suffering on others.

At the same time, the 21st century brings new challenges that extend well beyond immediate threats to very complex societal challenges such as global security, climate change, massive demographic shifts, resource management, information overload, and artificial intelligence.

Have we reached the edge of our human capacity to respond effectively as either individuals or collective groups?

The context and demands on our brains have been transformed by the very tools we have created, including new information technology platforms, and rapidly developing and deployed forms of artificial intelligence. Diseases of the brain are increasingly prevalent in our ageing population, as are the increasing mental health challenges that are evident across the human lifespan.

Considerable progress across the sciences and humanities has deepened our understanding of genetic, environmental, and social factors that underpin brain development and function. Rising demands on our capacity to respond appropriately to globalised threats bring an urgent need to apply our scientific understanding to the development of just and sustainable solutions.

This year’s Royal Society of New South Wales and Learned Academies Forum focusses on recent progress in unravelling the workings of the brain and opportunities to use our emerging understanding to promote human wellbeing well beyond the 21st Century.

The Forum is held under the auspices of Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales. The Royal Society of New South Wales acknowledges the generous support by Her Excellency, the Academies, the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, and Haus Holdings.
Period02 Nov 2023
Event typeSeminar
LocationSydney, Australia, New South WalesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational