Earlier Today, US philosopher Shannon Vallor, Professor of Philosophy at Santa Clara University in California, spoke at a public lecture organised by the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology, at Trinity College Dublin. Professor Vallor was invited to speak by ADAPT’s Ethics and Privacy Working Group, which brings together researchers from Computer Science, Law, Ethics, Sociology, and Ecumenics to progress the state of art and practice in Ethics and Privacy. Professor Vallor spoke about how the human character is being transformed by rapid advances in robotics, new social media, surveillance and biomedical technologies. Her lecture explored how these new technologies are reshaping human behaviours and institutions in increasingly unpredictable ways, and how these technologies are impacting society particularly in the areas of personal and communal human development and politics.

“There are huge ethical challenges posed by technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and new digital media for our personal habits and our social practices. Think of automating judicial and medical decisions, or the problems of ‘fake news’ and voter manipulation on social media. These are important issues that have enormous consequences and we should be thinking and talking about them as a society,” said Professor Vallor,

Prof Vallor identified the growing difficulty of making ethical decisions – choices that aim at the ‘good life’ – in our present human condition, one in which the unpredictable, complex and destabilising effects of emerging technologies on a global scale make the shape of the human future increasingly opaque and hard to fathom. She suggested that this 21st-century challenge for ethics, which she identifies as a state of acute techno-social opacity, is best addressed from a particular philosophical tradition. Shannon illustrated how those resources can be brought to bear upon to specific challenges presented by emerging technologies.

“I hope that cultivating newly adapted techno-moral virtues such as courage, civility, justice and honesty can permit the human family to live together more wisely than we do today, in ways that realise the immense promise that technology holds for the future of human flourishing,” continued Professor Vallor.