Students

PHIL2020 – Philosophy, Technology, and the Future of Humanity

2021 – Session 1, Special circumstances

Notice

As part of Phase 3 of our return to campus plan, most units will now run tutorials, seminars and other small group activities on campus, and most will keep an online version available to those students unable to return or those who choose to continue their studies online.

To check the availability of face-to-face and online activities for your unit, please go to timetable viewer. To check detailed information on unit assessments visit your unit's iLearn space or consult your unit convenor.

General Information

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Unit convenor and teaching staff Unit convenor and teaching staff Unit Convenor
A/Prof Paul Formosa
Lecturer
Prof Jean-Philippe Deranty
Lecturer
A/Prof Mark Alfano
Credit points Credit points
10
Prerequisites Prerequisites
40cp at 1000 level or above
Corequisites Corequisites
Co-badged status Co-badged status
Unit description Unit description

We live an increasing part of our lives online, playing videogames, and engaging with various technologies and virtual realities. Our workplaces are more automated, cars drive themselves, and robots take care of us. Is this a good thing? What is it doing to us? Where will it take us in the future? In this unit we draw on philosophical and ethical theories to explore the impacts of information and related technologies on humanity. Topics we will explore include issues around human-technology relations, such as: technological neutrality and technological determinism; embodiment, gender, and technology; and the co-evolution of mind and technology. We will examine ethical aspects of technology, such as: the impacts that online sharing has on our philosophical understandings of friendship; the right to internet privacy; how theories in moral psychology explain the ethical impacts of playing videogames; the ethics of self-driving cars and robotic care-workers; and the justice implications of the automatisation of work. Finally, we also look at topics surrounding the intertwining of humanity and technology and the future impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as: whether AI and the singularity is an existential risk to humanity; how technology will be used as a tool of human enhancement; and whether we will (and should) become cyborgs and stop being human.

Important Academic Dates

Information about important academic dates including deadlines for withdrawing from units are available at https://students.mq.edu.au/important-dates

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • ULO1: explain the major theories about the philosophical and ethical issues raised by new forms of technology
  • ULO2: analyse arguments in the relevant literatures.
  • ULO3: evaluate relevant theories and arguments critically
  • ULO4: communicate clearly your own perspective on the views and arguments presented in the unit

General Assessment Information

Unless a Special Consideration request has been submitted and approved, (a) a penalty for lateness will apply – two (2) marks out of 100 will be deducted per day for assignments submitted after the due date – and (b) no assignment will be accepted more than seven (7) days (incl. weekends) after the original submission deadline. No late submissions will be accepted for timed assessments – e.g. quizzes, online tests.

Assessment Tasks

Name Weighting Hurdle Due
Reflective blog 20% No 1/4/2021 at 23:59
Participation 20% No ongoing; closes at 1/6/2021 at 23:59
Weekly quiz 25% No ongoing; closes 1/6/2021 at 23:59
Research essay 35% No 3/6/2021 at 23:59

Reflective blog

Assessment Type 1: Reflective Writing
Indicative Time on Task 2: 15 hours
Due: 1/4/2021 at 23:59
Weighting: 20%

 

Reflective blog on class content

 


On successful completion you will be able to:
  • analyse arguments in the relevant literatures.
  • evaluate relevant theories and arguments critically
  • communicate clearly your own perspective on the views and arguments presented in the unit

Participation

Assessment Type 1: Participatory task
Indicative Time on Task 2: 15 hours
Due: ongoing; closes at 1/6/2021 at 23:59
Weighting: 20%

 

Participation in in-person or online tutorials and/or online forums

 


On successful completion you will be able to:
  • explain the major theories about the philosophical and ethical issues raised by new forms of technology
  • analyse arguments in the relevant literatures.
  • evaluate relevant theories and arguments critically
  • communicate clearly your own perspective on the views and arguments presented in the unit

Weekly quiz

Assessment Type 1: Quiz/Test
Indicative Time on Task 2: 15 hours
Due: ongoing; closes 1/6/2021 at 23:59
Weighting: 25%

 

Weekly quiz covering key ideas examined in the unit

 


On successful completion you will be able to:
  • explain the major theories about the philosophical and ethical issues raised by new forms of technology

Research essay

Assessment Type 1: Essay
Indicative Time on Task 2: 30 hours
Due: 3/6/2021 at 23:59
Weighting: 35%

 

Research essay exploring one relevant topic in depth

 


On successful completion you will be able to:
  • explain the major theories about the philosophical and ethical issues raised by new forms of technology
  • analyse arguments in the relevant literatures.
  • evaluate relevant theories and arguments critically
  • communicate clearly your own perspective on the views and arguments presented in the unit

1 If you need help with your assignment, please contact:

  • the academic teaching staff in your unit for guidance in understanding or completing this type of assessment
  • the Learning Skills Unit for academic skills support.

2 Indicative time-on-task is an estimate of the time required for completion of the assessment task and is subject to individual variation

Delivery and Resources

Resources:

  • Required readings  can be downloaded from Leganto.
  • You must read the required readings BEFORE class.

Delivery:

  • Recorded lecture content
  • Synchronous online zoom tutorials or physical tutorials (for Special Circumstances students)
  • Asynchronous forums (for Fully online/virtual students)

Unit Schedule

W1 – Introduction: Philosophy and Technology (PF)

No Reading

 

MIND, BODIES AND TECHNOLOGY

W2 – What is technology? Optimist and pessimist views of technology (JPD)

Reading 1: Mary Tiles and Hans Oberdiek, “Conflicting Visions of Technology,” in Living in a Technological Culture (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 12–31.

Reading 2: Andrew Feenberg, “What is the Philosophy of Technology?”, in Defining

Technological Literacy. Towards An Epistemological Framework, J. Dakers (ed.), (Palgrave McMillan, 2006), 5-16.

 

W3 - Mind and technology: co-evolution of mind and technology. (MA)

Reading 1: Sterelny K. (2011) "From hominins to humans: how sapiens became behaviourally

modern". Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 366: 809-822. http://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0301

Reading 2: Clark, A. (2002). “Towards a science of the bio-technological mind”, International Journal of Cognition and Technology, Vol. 1, No. 1, p . 21-33.

 

W4 –Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy (MA)

Reading 1: Bringsjord, Selmer and Govindarajulu, Naveen Sundar, "Artificial Intelligence", The

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://pl

ato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/artificial-intelligence/>.]

Reading 2: Robbins, Scott. “AI and the path to envelopment: knowledge as a first step towards the responsible regulation and use of AI-powered machines.” AI & Society. (2019)

 

W5 – The Singularity and Mind-uploading: Will humanity survive? (PF)

Reading: Chalmers, David J. “The Singularity.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 17, no. 9

(2010): 7–65.

 

ETHICAL AND SOCIAL ASPECTS OF TECHNOLOGY

W6 – Artificial moral agents: Can robots be persons? (PF)

Reading 1: Wynsberghe, Aimee van, and Scott Robbins. “Critiquing the Reasons for Making

Artificial Moral Agents.” Science and Engineering Ethics, 2018, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11

948-018-0030-8.

Reading 2: Formosa, Paul, and Malcolm Ryan. ‘Making Moral Machines: Why We Need Artificial Moral Agents’. AI & SOCIETY, 3 November 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-020-01089-6.

 

W7 – Autonomous Vehicles and Carebots: How to live with machines (PF)

Reading 1: Gogoll, Jan, and Julian F. Müller. “Autonomous Cars: In Favor of a Mandatory Ethics Setting.” Science and Engineering Ethics 23, no. 3 (June 2017): 681–700.

Reading 2: Vallor, Shannon. “Moral Deskilling and Upskilling in a New Machine Age:

Reflections on the Ambiguous Future of Character.” Philosophy & Technology 28, no. 1 (March

2015): 107–24. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-014-0156-9.

 

W8 –Videogames and morality: Do virtual actions matter? (PF)

Reading 1: Luck, M. (2009). The gamer’s dilemma: An analysis of the arguments for the moral

distinction between virtual murder and virtual paedophilia. Ethics and Information Technology,

11(1), 31–36.

Reading 2: Ryan, M., Staines, D., & Formosa, P. (2017). Focus, Sensitivity, Judgement, Action:

Four Lenses for Designing Morally Engaging Games. Transactions of the Digital Games

Research Association, 3(2), 143–173.

 

W9 – Privacy on the Internet: Do we have any and should we care? (PF)

Reading 1: Reiman, Jeffrey H. “Driving to the Panopticon: A Philosophical Exploration of the

Risks to Privacy Posed by the Highway Technology of the Future.” Santa Clara High Technology

Law Journal 11 (1995).

Reading 2: Joinson, Adam N., and Carina B. Paine. “Self-Disclosure, Privacy and the Internet.”

In Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology, edited by Adam N. Joinson, Katelyn Y. A. McKenna,

Tom Postmes, and Ulf-Dietrich Reips, Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, 2012.

 

TECHNOLOGY AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY

W10 – Economy and politics of cognitive capitalism (JPD)

Reading 1: Nick Srnicek, extracts from Platform Capitalism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017)

36-50, 126-129.

Reading 2: Yves Citton, “Reflexive Attention”, in The Ecology of Attention, trans. B. Norman

(Cambridge: Polity, 2017) 139-170.

 

W11 – Automation: dangers and solutions (JPD)

Reading 1: Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage, chapter 4.

Reading 2: David Zoller, “Skilled Perception, Authenticity and the case against Automation”, in

Patrick Lin, Keith Abney, and Ryan Jenkins (eds) Robot Ethics 2.0. From Automated Cars to

Artificial Intelligence, (Oxford University Press, 2017), chapter 6.

Reading 3: Andrew Feenberg, “Philosophy of Technology at the Crossroads,” from Technology

and the Good Life?, ed. Eric Higgs, Andrew Light, and David Strong (Chicago: University of

Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 294–315.

 

W12 – AI, Technology and Work (JPD)

Reading 1: Tubaro, Paola, Antonio A Casilli, and Marion Coville. ‘The Trainer, the Verifier, the Imitator: Three Ways in Which Human Platform Workers Support Artificial Intelligence’. Big Data & Society 7, no. 1 (January 2020): 205395172091977.

Reading 2:  Susskind, Richard, and Daniel Susskind. After the Professions. The Future of the Professions. Oxford University Press. 2015.

Reading 3: Nieswandt, Katharina. ‘Basic Income after Automation? That’s Not How Capitalism Works!’ The Conversation. 2016. http://theconversation.com/basic-income-after-automation-thats-not-how-capitalism-works-65023.

 

W13 – No Lecture

Writing week.

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