PHIX2020 – Philosophy, Technology, and the Future of Humanity

2023 – Session 1, Online-flexible

General Information

Download as PDF
Unit convenor and teaching staff Unit convenor and teaching staff Unit Convenor
Prof Paul Formosa
A/Prof Mark Alfano
Dr Thomas Corbin
Credit points Credit points
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

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 5% penalty (of the total possible mark) will be applied each day a written assessment is not submitted, up until the 7th day (including weekends). After the 7th day, a mark of ‘0’ (zero) will be awarded even if the assessment is submitted. Submission time for all written assessments is set at 11.55pm. A 1-hour grace period is provided to students who experience a technical issue. This late penalty will apply to written reports and recordings only. Latesubmission of time sensitive tasks (such as tests/exams, performance assessments/presentations, scheduled practical assessments/labs will be addressed by the unit convenor in a Special consideration application.

Assessment Tasks

Name Weighting Hurdle Due
Reflective blog 25% No 24/04/2023 at 11:55PM
Participation 15% No Week 2- Week 12
Weekly quiz 20% No 2/06/2023 at 11:55PM
Research essay 40% No 1/06/2023 at 11:55PM

Reflective blog

Assessment Type 1: Reflective Writing
Indicative Time on Task 2: 15 hours
Due: 24/04/2023 at 11:55PM
Weighting: 25%

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.


Assessment Type 1: Participatory task
Indicative Time on Task 2: 15 hours
Due: Week 2- Week 12
Weighting: 15%

Participation in 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: 2/06/2023 at 11:55PM
Weighting: 20%

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: 1/06/2023 at 11:55PM
Weighting: 40%

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 Writing Centre 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


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


  • A mix of live and recorded lectures 
  • In person scheduled students: in-person tutorials.
  • Online scheduled students: zoom tutorials.
  • Online Flexible students: online forums.

Unit Schedule

W1 – Introduction: Philosophy and Technology (PF) - February 21

  • No reading
  • No tutorial
  • No quiz this week

W2 – What is technology? Optimist and pessimist views of technology (TC) – February 28

  • 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.
  • Tutorial 1
  • No quiz this week

W3 - Co-evolution of mind and technology (MA) – March 7

  • Reading 1: Sterelny K. (2011) "From hominins to humans: how sapiens became behaviourally modern". Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 366: 809-822.
  • Reading 2: Clark, A. (2002). “Towrds a science of the bio-technological mind”, International Journal of Cognition and Technology, Vol. 1, No. 1, p . 21-33.
  • Tutorial 2
  • Quiz 1

W4 - Cognition and technology (MA) – March 14

  • Reading 1: Hollan, J., Hutchins, E. & Kirsh, D. (2000). Distributed Cognition: Toward a new foundation for Human-Computer Interaction Research. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 7 (2), 174–196
  • Reading 2: Andrew Feenberg, “From Essentialism to Constructivism: 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.
  • Tutorial 3
  • Quiz 2

W5 –Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy (MA) – March 21

  • Reading 1: Bringsjord, Selmer and Govindarajulu, Naveen Sundar, "Artificial Intelligence", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.]  (Section 1-5, 8-9 of the SEP entry ONLY).
  • 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)
  • Tutorial 4
  • Quiz 3

W6 – The Singularity and Mind-uploading: Will humanity survive? (PF) – March 28

  • Reading 1: Chalmers, David J. “The Singularity.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 17, no. 9 (2010): 7–65.
  • Tutorial 5
  • Quiz 4

W7 – Artificial moral agents: Can robots be persons? (PF) – April 4

  • Reading 1: Wynsberghe, Aimee van, and Scott Robbins. “Critiquing the Reasons for Making Artificial Moral Agents.” Science and Engineering Ethics, 2018, 1–17.
  • Reading 2: Formosa, Paul, and Malcolm Ryan. ‘Making Moral Machines: Why We Need Artificial Moral Agents’. AI & SOCIETY, 3 November 2020.
  • Tutorial 6
  • Quiz 5



W8 – Autonomous Vehicles and Carebots: How to live with machines (PF) – April 25

  • 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.
  • No tutorial this week – public holiday
  • Reflective Blog due – Monday 24/4/2023
  • Quiz 6

W9 –Videogames and morality: Do virtual actions matter? (PF) – May 2

  • 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.
  • Tutorial 7
  • Quiz 7


W10 – Platform and Surveillance capitalism (TC) – May 9

  • Reading 1: Nick Srnicek, extracts from Platform Capitalism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017), pp. 36-50, 126-129.
  • Reading 2: Zuboff, Shoshana. “Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization.” Journal of Information Technology 30, no. 1 (March 1, 2015): 75–89.
  • Tutorial 8
  • Quiz 8


W11 – Privacy on the Internet: Do we have any and should we care? (PF) – May 16

  • 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.
  • Tutorial 9
  • Quiz 9


W12 – AI, Automation and Work (PF) – May 23

  • 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: Jarrahi, Mohammad Hossein. “In the Age of the Smart Artificial Intelligence: AI’s Dual Capacities for Automating and Informating Work.” Business Information Review 36, no. 4 (December 2019): 178–87. 
  • Tutorial 10
  • Quiz 10


W13 – No New Content – May 30

  • Writing week.
  • No lecture
  • No tutorial
  • No new quiz
  • Research Essay Due: 1/6/2023
  • All Quizzes close: 2/6/2023

Policies and Procedures

Macquarie University policies and procedures are accessible from Policy Central ( Students should be aware of the following policies in particular with regard to Learning and Teaching:

Students seeking more policy resources can visit Student Policies ( It is your one-stop-shop for the key policies you need to know about throughout your undergraduate student journey.

To find other policies relating to Teaching and Learning, visit Policy Central ( and use the search tool.

Student Code of Conduct

Macquarie University students have a responsibility to be familiar with the Student Code of Conduct:


Results published on platform other than eStudent, (eg. iLearn, Coursera etc.) or released directly by your Unit Convenor, are not confirmed as they are subject to final approval by the University. Once approved, final results will be sent to your student email address and will be made available in eStudent. For more information visit or if you are a Global MBA student contact

Academic Integrity

At Macquarie, we believe academic integrity – honesty, respect, trust, responsibility, fairness and courage – is at the core of learning, teaching and research. We recognise that meeting the expectations required to complete your assessments can be challenging. So, we offer you a range of resources and services to help you reach your potential, including free online writing and maths support, academic skills development and wellbeing consultations.

Student Support

Macquarie University provides a range of support services for students. For details, visit

The Writing Centre

The Writing Centre provides resources to develop your English language proficiency, academic writing, and communication skills.

The Library provides online and face to face support to help you find and use relevant information resources. 

Student Services and Support

Macquarie University offers a range of Student Support Services including:

Student Enquiries

Got a question? Ask us via AskMQ, or contact Service Connect.

IT Help

For help with University computer systems and technology, visit

When using the University's IT, you must adhere to the Acceptable Use of IT Resources Policy. The policy applies to all who connect to the MQ network including students.

Unit information based on version 2023.02 of the Handbook