I am a post-doctoral fellow on the Humanising Machine Intelligence Grand Challenge project at the Australian National University (where I have been awarded the John Vincent Fellowship). I completed my post-doctoral fellowship at the Polonsky Academy of Advanced Study at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, after having received my PhD from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 2014
My main areas of research are ethics, both normative and applied, and the philosophy of technology.
My current project focuses on creating ethical machine intelligence: on both developing the theoretical framework necessary to understand the challenges and opportunities that AI affords and designing technology to implement my findings. Through working with other philosophers, as well as social and computer scientists, the Humanising Machine Intelligence project will progress through discovery, foundations and design to reshape our understanding of what it means to be ethical in the age of machine intelligences.
My research as part of this project addresses three core issues: (1) the development of ethical codes for artificial agents; (2) the normative considerations of human-robot interactions (HRI); and (3) the effect of technological realities and limits, such as complexity and assurance, on our core values, such as trust, care, and respect. In addition to papers in progress exploring these themes and mapping the terrain, I am currently drafting an outline of the book that will be the culmination of this project: Robot Relationships: A Guide to Getting Along After the Fourth Revolution.
My previous project in applied ethics and the philosophy of technology focused on the ethics of virtual objects, images and worlds. My research demonstrates that the ethical problems raised by these technologies require more than the simple application of our traditional ethics, demanding the creation of new principles to govern behaviour or even changes to our conceptual framework. Take new technology of creating virtual images. These have have allowed for the production of virtual child pornography: images that are visually indistinguishable from photographic child pornography and yet do not involve the sexual abuse of any child to create. As such the traditional reason for the prohibition of child pornography—the sexual abuse of depicted children—appears not to apply. My work tackles this head on and provides a technically informed analysis of the creation of such images. For example, in ‘What is Wrong with Doctored Child Pornography’ (under review), I propose a consent-based argument that explains how certain kinds of virtual child pornography wrong individual children, even in the absence of sexual abuse. My article ‘Child Pornography in the Digital Age: A Conceptual Muddle’ forthcoming in Pornography: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, (Peter Lang, 2018) reveals the power of technological change to demand conceptual change. I demonstrate how the age of digital photography has radically changed the very nature of what it is to be an image; how our current inability to identify the genesis of an image can alter whether an image is of a child; and, drawing on Michael Rea’s definition of pornography, how new forms of information, such as metadata, can recontextualise images as child pornography. I have also work in progress addressing the possibility of using virtual reality experiences to enhance us morally and on realism and sense of self in virtual worlds.
In normative ethics, I work primarily on supererogation. Supererogatory actions are those that go above and beyond the call of duty. In my work on supererogation, I examine both the conditions that an act must meet to be counted as supererogatory as well as the value of including this class of normative action in our ethical theories. Often overlooked in the traditional ethical discussions of liars, murderers, promise-breakers and thieves, I focus on the wonderfully positive side of our moral lives and encourage us all to take more seriously those modest gift-givers, blood-donors, saints and heroes who similarly populate our moral world.
For more, see the section on my current research.