The Ethics of Emerging Technologies

The 3rd Annual Graduate Student Workshop in Applied Philosophy
November 6-7, 2015
207 Bowen-Thompson Student Union
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio


About the workshop

The technologies that are available to us partly shape what we are able to do, and what kinds of lives we can lead. Thus, the development of new technologies often generates practical ethical issues, and may even raise challenging puzzles for normative ethics more generally. For example, should we genetically engineer “designer children” or raise livestock who are incapable of suffering? Basic education is compulsory in many countries. If safe and reliable cognitive enhancements were available, should their use become mandatory in the same way that basic education is? If not, what deeper feature of how laws are justified explains this? What duties might we have to AI systems? These are but a few of the most obvious moral questions that arise at the forefront of technological development.

Keynote Speakers

Sheila Jasanoff
Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies
Harvard Kennedy School

John Basl
Professor of Philosophy
Northeastern University



9:00 a.m.   Doors open, BGSU Student Union, Mylander Room (207)
9:30 a.m. Suzanne Neefus An Ethical Analysis of Commercial Surrogacy in India
10:20 a.m.   Break
10:30 a.m. Matthew Sample Technoscientific Practice vs. the Philosophical Imagination: Scientists' Responsibilities in the Context of Neural Engineering
11:30 a.m.   Break
11:45 a.m.   Lunch - for invited guests, Shatzel Hall, Philosophy Department, Room 301 (If you would like to join the lunch, register via the registration link.
1:00 p.m. Dr. Rodney Rogers, Provost Introductory Remarks
1:00 p.m. Sheila Jasanoff Keynote Address: Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School
2:45 p.m.   Break
3:00 p.m. Avi Appel Facebook's Censorship Policy: A Legal and Ethical Analysis
3:50 p.m.  
4:00 p.m. Jurgita Randakeviclute The Influence of Biomedical Science on the Legal Regulation: An Interaction of Two Traditions
4:50 p.m.    Break
5:00 p.m.         Michael Dauber The Ethics of Mitochondrial DNA  Replacement Techniques: The Morality of the Three Parent Babies and the Non-Identity Problem
7:00 p.m.       Social Gathering and Activities at The Big Fab Lab, 1234 N. Main St., Bowling Green, Ohio -


8:30 a.m.   
  Breakfast, 301 Shatzel Hall
8:50 a.m.   Doors Open, BGSU Student Union, Mylander Room (207) (The doors may not open until 9 a.m., so there may be a slight delay on the start time)
9:00 a.m. Marcus Schultz-Bergin   Genetic Engineering as Speciation
9:50 a.m.   
10:00 a.m. Emmalon Davis Sharing Contraceptive Responsibility: Is There an Imperative for Male Contraceptive Technology
10:50 a.m.    Break
11:00 a.m. Jason Schukraft Indirect Normativity, Ideal Agents, and Superintelligence
11:50 a.m.   Break
12:00 p.m.   Open Lunch
1:45 p.m. John Basl Keynote Address: John Basl, Northeastern University, Rethinking Research: Ethical Concerns Associated with the Cognitive Enhancement of Non-human Research Subjects
2:45 p.m.   Break
3:00 p.m. Claire Benn What is Wrong with Virtual Child Pornography?
3:50 p.m.
4:00 p.m. Alice Fox Moral Exclusivity: The Pursuit of Agency Status for Synthetic and Non-Human Beings
5:00 p.m.                End of Workshop

An Ethical Analysis of Commercial Surrogacy in India - 9:30 a.m. Friday

Suzanne Neefus - Georgia State University

The recent appearance of a commercial surrogacy industry in many developing countries raises a number of ethical problems. This essay critically examines the moral status of the surrogacy industry in India. I argue that commercial surrogacy has the potential to empower women. Respect for women's autonomy implies that surrogacy is in principle morally permissible. However, the industry often exploits the vulnerabilities of disadvantaged women. Government regulation of commercial surrogacy can promote conditions conducive to fully voluntary and informed consent.


What is Wrong with Virtual Child Pornography? - 3:00 p.m. Saturday

Claire Benn - The Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

New technologies have affected the distribution, consumption, and importantly the production of child pornography, making even more pressing the question: exactly what are the wrongs of child pornography? And do these wrongs apply to images produced by new technologies? I argue that while some arguments apply to some subtypes of virtual child pornography, this leaves some main types unaccounted for. I give a descriptive account of our negative moral judgment of virtual child pornography and argue that, in order to draw a normative conclusion, we must appeal to arguments that have huge significance for arguments concerning adult pornography.

Genetic Engineering as Speciation - 9:00 a.m. Saturday

Marcus Schultz-Bergin - Bowling Green State University

Many instances of germ-line genetic engineering are best construed as instances of speciation - the splitting of one species into multiple distinct species. Conceiving of genetic engineering in this way has important ethical and policy implications. In this paper, I defend this thesis by examining what philosophers and biologists have called "The Species Problem", which encompasses the controversy over establishing what distinguishes species from one another and how to place individuals into species categories. I argue that for the species concept to play any role in ethical theorizing we need a non-controversial approach. I offer such an approach that is implicit in and ecumenical between all the currently competing species concepts. This requires understanding species as distinctly evolving population-level lineages. I then argue that once we accept this understanding of species, it becomes obvious that genetic engineering creates new species rather than modifies existing ones. I then discuss a few implications, namely that two common objections to genetic engineering - what I call the species-typicality objection and the crossing species boundaries objection - fail to apply to genetic engineering.


Sharing Contraceptive Responsibility: Is There an Imperative for Male Contraceptive Technology? - 10:00 a.m. Saturday

Emmalon Davis - Indiana University

There are three stages at which procreative outcomes can be prevented or altered: (1) prior to conception, (2) during pregnancy, and (3) after birth.  In discussing the legitimacy of parental licensing programs, Daniel Engster (2010) has ably argued that plans to prevent or alter undesirable procreative outcomes at stages (2) and (3)—through abortion and adoption—introduce financial, physical, and emotional hardships to which women are disproportionately vulnerable. In what follows, I suggest that plans to prevent or alter procreative outcomes at stage (1)—through contraception use—also unfairly burden women. This is the case even when such plans are not legally enforced through state intervention, but are nonetheless morally enforced (e.g. through social pressure). Consequently, I argue that there is an imperative to develop better forms of contraceptive technology for male users. In conclusion, I suggest several ways that men might more equitably share contraceptive responsibility with their partners.


Facebook's Censorship Policy: A Legal and Ethical Analysis - 3:00 p.m. Friday

Avi Appel - Cornell University

What ethical considerations should guide Facebook's managers in censoring content? This essay explores two approaches to addressing this question: 1) A constitutional approach, reviewing relevant federal common law (the quasi-municipality doctrine) and relevant state common law (California's shopping mall doctrine). 2) A business ethics approach, relying on Joseph Heath's market failures theory of business ethics. I conclude that legislatures and some state courts should regulate Facebook's ability to censor users. I also conclude that Facebook should self-regulate their censorship practice in certain nuanced ways.


Technoscientific Practice vs. the Philosophical Imagination: Scientists' Responsibilities in the Context of Neural Engineering  - 10:30 a.m. Friday

Matthew Sample - University of Washington, Fellow Harvard Program on STS

In an attempt to evaluate scientific practice as it really exists, as epistemic and value-laden, Heather Douglas asserts that scientists have moral responsibilities. Scientists are, she argues, beholden to the scientific community, to good reasoning, and to the public in which science is funded and valued. But science, understood individually or collectively, may no longer be a sufficiently isolated practice in order to effectively assign such responsibilities. By examining some structural features of science in the context of neural engineering, I sketch out some of the obstacles for Douglas' framework. I conclude by considering some ways forward for responsibilist understandings of science and engineering.


Influence of Biomedical Science on the Legal Regulation: an Interaction of two Traditions - 4:00 p.m. Friday

Jurgita Randakeviciute - Vilnius University Faculty of Law, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

The main objective of this paper is to analyze how the Western legal tradition should react to the development of biomedical science, when the latter presents innovation, which is difficult for the law to comprehend. It is suggested that perceiving biomedical science and the Western legal system as two different interacting traditions may help to solve the tension between them and set the appropriate regulation on the afore-mentioned field of science. Such interaction between these two traditions will be analyzed in the realm of the art. 53 (a) of the European Patent Convention, which allows to reject a patent application if the commercial exploitation of the invention would be contrary to the ordre public and morality, that are regarded as concepts dependent on many cultural, ethical or religious factors.


Indirect Normativity, Ideal Agents, and Superintelligence - 11:00 a.m. Saturday

Jason Schukraft - University of Texas at Austin

In this paper I argue that the indirect normativity approach to solving the superintelligence control problem faces a challenge, which severely undermines its usefulness.  The problem is that all methods for implementing the indirect normativity approach appeal, either explicitly or tacitly, to idealized agents.  In stipulating the traits of the ideal agent, the following dilemma arises: the more detail indirect normativity proponents build into the notion of ‘ideal agent,’ the more the approach approximates direct specification strategies, with all their concomitant troubles; but the more abstract one’s notion of ‘ideal agent,’ the more likely it is that the approach will fail to solve the control problem.

Moral Exclusivity: The Pursuit of Agency Status for Synthetic and Non-Human Beings - 4:00 p.m. Saturday

Alice Fox - Ohio Northern University

When it comes to artificial intelligence, it is not uncommon for people to fear for the outcome of humanity in the wake of developing technology. But in that trepidation, humans seek to place limitations on artificial intelligence that mirror those used to deny moral status to even human beings. This paper seeks to use the past mistakes of humanity to argue against strict limitations on inorganic, non-human beings, especially the use of them as slaves or tools to humanity.  Instead, it suggests a community-driven approach that grants them the appropriate moral status in hopes of ensuring a long-standing legacy of human culture, behavior, and traditions well beyond our world, and perhaps, even our universe.


The Ethics of Mitochondrial DNA Replacement Techniques: The Morality of Three Parent Babies and the Non-Identity Problem - 5:00 p.m. Friday

Michael Dauber - New York University

This paper explores the nature of three parent DNA IVF treatments and possible objections to the technique. I consider questions over whether or not the technology in question, mitochondrial replacement technique, poses eugenics issues and whether or not it is subject to the non-identity problem. Based on the view that a complete set of DNA is what constitutes personal identity, I conclude that a different person is not created by swapping out mitochondria or moving nuclei from one oocyte to another, so the problem does not arise and the technique is morally permissible.



Sara Ghaffari -
Scott Simmons –

Registration for Workshop - Due by Nov. 2

Registration is free for the workshop. Cost to attend the Friday (Nov. 6) lunch is $8.50.

A vegan-vegetarian lunch will include an assortment of fresh Lebanese food including hummus, chick pea salad, mujadara, falafel, vegetable kibi. Beverages included. Lunch will be served in 301 Shatzel Hall from 11:45-12:45.

RSVP in advance is required - checks may be made payable to Philosophy-BGSU Foundation. Please deliver cash or check to Department of Philosophy Secretary, Margaret DeLuca, 305 Shatzel Hall, 419-372-2117)

To register for the workshop, please provide name, affiliation and email address and if you plan to attend the lunch on Friday ($8.50 cost-see above).   Send registration information to





Accommodations with graduate students may be available. Please contact the workshop coordinators if you are interested in staying with a graduate student for the workshop.

Special thanks to The BiG Fab Lab for graciously donating time at their "Maker Space" to event participants! 

The BiG Fab Lab has "the equipment, classes, private storage and studio space, and personal assistance to a membership community that allows them to prototype and develop any idea they can imagine."