Speakers / artists
Planta sapiens: removing the blindfold through Education
The evolution of sentience has become a hot topic of research in recent years. Cognitive science cannot rule out non-animal forms of life having structures that promote awareness. And yet, we suffer from a particularly pernicious form of ‘plant blindness’ that stems from the biases of our sensory systems and from our deeply enculturated attitudes to non-animal life. I shall build on recent research into plant cognition to argue for an urgent and dramatic re-framing of plants as actors, not objects. As we shall see, the excitable vascular system of plants forms a complex information-processing network that allows plants to coordinate and integrate information signalling from root to shoot, and to take appropriate action as the need arises. The potential for such excitable network to form mental states is currently unknown, and yet exciting. Today we know that plants are subject to reversible anaesthetic treatment. The case of plants under anaesthesia constitutes a specially promising avenue of research. Overall, my talk explores the very possibility and consequences of plant sentience. This approach may ultimately bear upon our understanding of life and cognition more broadly, reaching all the way from single cell organisms to human beings, including plants. A step in the right direction is to rethink Education: helping future generations see our role in the biosphere very differently and motivating change to a truly sustainable existence. This will be vital to long-term solutions to the anthropogenic ecological crisis.
Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence (2023), New York: W.W. Norton, by Paco Calvo (with Natalie Lawrence).
Paco Calvo (PhD, University of Glasgow, 2000) is a Professor of Philosophy of Science, and Principal Investigator of MINTLab (Minimal Intelligence Lab— http://www.um.es/web/minimal-intelligence-lab) at the University of Murcia (Spain). His research interests range broadly within the cognitive sciences, with special emphasis on plant intelligence, ecological psychology and embodied cognitive science. He uses time-lapse photography to explore perception-action and learning in plants. His scientific articles have appeared in Annals of Botany, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Frontiers in Psychology, Journal of the Royal Society, Plant, Cell & Environment, Plant Signaling & Behavior, Scientific Reports, and Trends in Plant Science, among other journals. His book, Planta Sapiens, was published in 2022 with Norton in the US, and Little, Brown & Co., in the UK.