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What moved humans to create cultures—intelligent systems including the arts, morality, science, government, and technology? The answer to this question has typically been the human faculty of language, but preeminent neuroscientist, professor, and director of USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute Antonio Damasio argues that feelings―of pain and suffering or of anticipated pleasure―were the prime engines that stirred human intellect in the cultural direction. In his newest book The Strange Order of Things, Damasio traces the need for cultures back to one-cell organisms, long before there were nervous systems and conscious minds. Damasio will be joined by Manuel Castells, one of the world’s leading sociologists, for a fascinating conversation on the origins of life, mind, and culture that spans the biological and social sciences to offer a new way of understanding the world and our place in it.

Antonio Damasio

Antonio Damasio is a University Professor; David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, Neurology and Psychology; and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. He is the author of numerous scientific articles and the recipient of many awards, including the Asturias Prize in Science and Technology; the Honda Prize; and the Pessoa and Signoret prizes. Damasio is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of Descartes’ Error, The Feeling of What Happens, Looking for Spinoza, and Self Comes to Mind, which have been translated and taught in universities throughout the world.


Manuel Castells

Manuel Castells is University Professor and the Wallis Annenberg Chair of Communication Technology and Society at the University of Southern California. He is as well, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley. He has taught at the Sorbonne in Paris, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona. He has published 30 books, including his trilogy The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, translated in 22 languages. He is the only scholar to have received the two most prestigious international prizes in social sciences, the Holberg Prize and the Balzan Prize.


Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at approximately 7 PM.

Standby Policy:
Standby numbers are distributed in person only one hour before the program, on a first-come, first-served, basis. There is no advance wait list for full programs. Standby patrons will be admitted subject to availability. Most programs will be available via podcast.

Book Signing Policy:
ALOUD is one of many free programs at the Los Angeles Public Library made possible by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Most ALOUD author programs are followed by book signings. At least one copy of the author’s book must be purchased from The Library Store in order to participate in any post-program book signing, and you will be asked to show proof of purchase. Please be prepared to show your proof of purchase when you enter the book signing line. Proceeds support the Los Angeles Public Library.

Main Image: Cuevas de las Manos, Argentina Credit: Mariano


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the reservation policy for ALOUD?

    As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.

  • Why do programs fill so quickly?

    ALOUD provides a unique experience for the public to engage with scholars, authors, and artists in the intimate 235-seat Mark Taper Auditorium. Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit, and check the website on an on-going basis for program availability. Be sure to subscribe to our email alerts, and visit our Media Archive for podcasts and other items from our recent programs.

  • Where does ALOUD take place?

    Unless otherwise noted, ALOUD programs are held at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium.

  • Where should I park for ALOUD programs?

    We recommend taking public transportation. Parking for the Central Library is at the Westlawn Garage at 524 S. Flower Street. For more information, visit the Library’s website.

  • Should I purchase the author’s book in advance?

    We encourage you to purchase books from the Library Store. All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library. Books are made available for purchase when you reserve for a program online, and are also on sale at programs. In order to participate in the book signing, you must purchase at least one book from The Library Store. Members receive discounts on purchases.


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