Emerging Technology and Ethics

Date(s) - 04/23/2018
3:00 pm

Duncan Purves, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Florida

Philosopher of technology Emmanuel Mesthene wrote in 1969, “New technology creates new opportunities for men and societies, and it also generates new problems for them. It has both positive and negative effects, and it usually has the two at the same time and in virtue of each other…Technology thus makes possible a future of open-ended options.”
In the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony over Facebook’s data privacy breach, Mesthene’s quote appears as prescient as ever. Technology raises novel ethical challenges precisely because it creates new opportunities for human societies. Some of these challenges are obvious. Others are harder to discern. This presentation offers a primer in philosophical ethics and then explores latent ethical challenges associated with technological developments in the biological sciences, medicine, and the military: CRISPR-Cas-9 gene editing technology, vascular composite allografts, and autonomous weapons systems. I suggest that addressing these challenges requires cross-disciplinary conversation between philosophers specializing in ethics and experts in technology-intensive fields.


Duncan Purves is an assistant professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Florida. His research focuses on emerging ethical issues in artificial intelligence and biotechnology, the moral significance of harm, and the moral significance of non-human animals. He has published on these topics in leading journals including Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, The Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and Philosophical Studies. He has also edited a Routledge volume on the ethical underpinnings of climate economics.