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Ethics in AI Seminar - Does AI threaten Human Autonomy

26 November 2020

With Dr Carina Prunkl, Jessica Morley and OUC's Dr Jonathan Pugh.

Chaired by Professor Peter Millican.

How can AI systems influence our decision-making in ways that undermine autonomy? 
Do they do so in new or more problematic ways?
To what extent can we outsource tasks to AI systems without losing our autonomy?
Do we need a new conception of autonomy that incorporates considerations of the digital self?

This event is part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

CEPPA Chats - Roger Crisp talks private property

29 April 2020

Philosopher Roger Crisp sits down with Theron Pummer to talk about how we acquire private property and about borders and immigration.

Health vs Choice? The Vaccination Debate

3 November 2019, Barbican Centre, London

Governments in some countries, like Italy and France, have introduced new measures to compel vaccination against specified diseases, linking proof of vaccination to children’s access to state-provided schooling. These measures are presented as a necessary expression of the public good, of the right of children to be protected from serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases, and of the need to uphold truth against lies. However, the turn to compulsion has led some commentators, even some who support vaccination, to raise questions about these measures. Over 200 years since Edward Jenner’s use of cowpox to provide immunity from smallpox, what should we make of the situation now? Is there a legitimate right for individuals or parents to refuse vaccination? Or are claims for the public good and for the right of children to good health, expressed if necessary through compulsion, more ethically persuasive?

Can spying be principled in this digital age?

11 June 2019, St Cross College

The question of how far a state should authorise the peacetime collection and use of intelligence gathered by secret agents and by interception of communications has long been a thorny issue of public policy.  Today, new ethical and legal questions arise from the ability to access in bulk personal information from social media and from Internet use and to apply artificial intelligence trained algorithms to mine data for intelligence and law enforcement purposes. In his talk Sir David Omand, a former director of GCHQ, will lay out an ethical framework for thinking about these powerful developments in modern digital intelligence.  

This lecture was made possible by ARC Discovery Grant 'Intelligence and National Security: Ethics, Efficacy and Accountability' &   ERC Advanced Grant ‘Global Terrorism and Collective Moral Responsibility’

Global Legal Epidemiology:  developing a science around whether, when and how international law can address global challenges

Oct 2018

Introducing a pioneering approach to ‘global legal epidemiology’, Professor Steven Hoffman, Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow, will discuss legal mechanisms available for coordinating international responses to transnational problems, their prospects, and their challenges. Global legal epidemiology is the scientific study of international law as a factor in the cause, distribution, and promotion of outcomes around the world. It involves evaluating the effectiveness of international legal mechanisms on the basis of their quantifiable effects and drawing implications for the development of future treaties.

Prof Hoffman will draw on examples from public health, including tobacco control and antimicrobial resistance, identifying wider lessons for potential international treaties in other domains such as the environment, human rights and trade.


Human Brain Organoids: the Science, the Ethics

On 1 June 2018, the International Neuroethics Society (INS) and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities at the University of Oxford co-hosted a symposium on human brain organoids. Neuroscientists, clinicians, lawyers and philosophers gathered to hear lectures given by Madeline Lancaster, Julian Savulescu, and INS President Hank Greely.  The lectures were followed by invigorating discussion and debate on the science and the ethics associated with this new technology. You can find videos of the lectures below and an accompanying summary of the issues discussed on the INS website. 


2016 Uehiro-Carnegie-Oxford Lecture in Practical Ethics

Ignatieff, M., (2016), 'Human Rights, Global Ethics and the Ordinary Virtues', Uehiro-Carnegie-Oxford Lecture in Practical Ethics.  (27 October).  

Since 1945, human rights has become the dominant global ethic of international law and state practice around the world. In this lecture reporting on research supported by the Uehiro Foundation and Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Michael Ignatieff asks a new question about human rights: what has been its impact upon the ordinary virtues of daily life? Do human rights figure in the languages that ordinary people use to confront their most urgent moral dilemmas, or do human rights remain an elite discourse of states and politicians, more honoured in the breach than in the observance?

Savulescu, J. et al., (2016), 'DNA Manipulation Debate', Oxford Union (July)

Sparrow, R. and Savulescu, J., (2016), 'Should doping in sports be unrestricted? A video head-to-head.' Interviewed by Regan Penaluna for 'Nautilus'. (25 August)

Wilkinson, D., (2016), Interview on HFEA decision to approve 'three-person baby’ mitochondrial transfer in UK, Al Jazeera English news channel (15 December 2016).

Hyman, S., (2015). 2015 Loebel Lecture (1/3): Neurobiological materialism collides with the experience of being human. (3 November)

Hyman, S., (2015). 2015 Loebel Lecture (2/3): Science is quietly, inexorably eroding many core assumptions underlying psychiatry. (4 November)

Hyman, S., (2015). 2015 Loebel Lecture (3/3): What is the upshot? (5 November)

Parfit, D., (2015). 'Effective Altruism'. Oxford Union (17 June)

Radcliffe Richards, J., (2015), 'Noble Ancestors and Modern Selves'. This video debate, produced by The Institute of Art and Ideas, looks at whether we ought to look at hunter-gatherer societies as ideal models of the good life. On the panel, as well as Janet, are explorer and documentary maker Bruce Parry; anthropologist Daniel Everett and bio-ethicist Dr. Sarah Chan. Throughout the debate, the panellists discuss why we are fascinated by hunter-gather societies as models of "the good life" and whether there is any plausibility in this conception.  

Savulescu, J., (2015), YouTube: Online video on ethics of mitochondrial transfer (2 February)


2014 Loebel Lectures in Philosophy and Psychiatry:  Professor Kenneth S Kendler

Lecture 1 of 2:The Genetic Epidemiology of Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Disorders: Multiple Levels, Interactions and Causal Loops

I show how recent studies in the genetic epidemiology and molecular genetics of psychiatric and substance use disorders illustrate the complex causal pathways to mental illness. These include gene-environment interaction in the etiology of major depression (MD) and substance use and abuse, gene-social interactions in drug use, environment-environment interaction in the etiology of MD, and gene-environment covariation in the etiology of MD. I will illustrate the role of genetic factors on the comorbidity of psychiatric disorders using both twin and molecular methods, and describe complex developmental models for MD  and alcohol use disorder. I will conclude with a classical example of top-down causation: the impact of human decision-making on the gene-to-phenotype pathway for psychiatric illness.

Lecture 2 of 2: The Dappled Causal World of Psychiatric Disorders: The Link Between the Classification of Psychiatric Disorders and Their Causal Complexity

Since it is unlikely that we can identify a single causal level at which we can define our disorders etiologically, I explore the dappled causal world for psychiatric disorders, through an examination of psychiatric and other literature. I will suggest three primary and progressive goals for psychiatric research: to populate our causal space, to develop multilevel causal mechanisms, and to integrate the resulting neurobiological models with psychological explanations. I will consider how we might best conceptualise psychiatric disorders, and propose a new framework for how their classification might best move forward in time.


Persson, I., (2014), Video: Ingmar Persson on 'moral enhancement', recorded at 'Zukunftkongresse' ('Future Congress') in Wolfsburg, Germany.  Professor Ingmar Persson discusses themes from 'Unfit for the Future'. (17 June). Watch video on 2bAHEAD ThinkTank website.

Radcliffe Richards, J., (2014), 'After Evolution: Is culture beyond genetics?', Everything from criminality to love of gossip is in our genes according to some biologists. Yet behaviour varies dramatically between cultures. Does this cultural variation mean that the theory of evolution is flawed? Can it be rescued with a new theory or is culture beyond genetics?   Janet joined anthropologist Daniel Everett and evolutionary psychologist Oliver Curry to explore the limits of evolution.  Recorded at the HowTheLightGetsIn ideas festival and hosted by Julian Baggini. (May). The Institute of Art and Ideas website.

Savulescu, J., (2013). The Need for Moral Enhancement, TEDxBarcelona,  (May) Video

Savulescu, J., (2013), Televised debate (Belgrade) between Savulescu and John Harris on human enhancement technologies on 15 May (in English)

Savulescu, J., (2013), Televised debate (Belgrade) on RTS on 14 May with Peter Singer on human enhancement technologies (in Serbian)

Earp, B., (2013). The Ethics of Male Circumcision, Uehiro Seminar in Practical Ethics, Oxford (7 June) Audio  |  Video 

Sandberg, A, (2012), Interview for 'The What If Machine'. Available on YouTube, Anders comments ethical and practical issues of engineering 'super-soldiers' by genetically modifying humans.

2012 Uehiro Lectures

14 November 2012, Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards, Oxford Uehiro Lectures 2012: Sex in a Shifting Landscape Lecture One, (Merton College, Oxford)

21 November 2012, Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards, Oxford Uehiro Lectures 2012: Sex in a Shifting Landscape Lecture Two, (Merton College, Oxford)

28 November 2012, Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards, Oxford Uehiro Lectures 2012: Sex in a Shifting Landscape Lecture Three, (Merton College, Oxford)


22 February 2010, Julian Savulescu presented at the 2nd St Cross Special Ethics Seminar at St Cross College in Oxford. The presentation, 'Unfit For Life: Genetically Enhance Humanity or Face Extinction', was devised by Professor Savulescu and Professor Ingmar Persson of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

13 October 2009, Julian Savulescu - appears on 'Insight' (Australian broadcast t.v. programme), discussing genetic testing for various diseases and what people do with the information, involving various ethical and moral dilemmas.

4 October 2009, Julian Savulescu - 'Unfit For Life: Genetically Enhance Humanity or Face Extinction' presented at the Sydney Festival of Dangerous Ideas

8 July 2009, Julian Savulescu on 'I want to be a Superhero', True Tube (educational videos online) videocast on human enhancement

26 June 2009, Julian Savulescu on 'Fitter, Faster, Future', True Tube (educational videos online) videocast on drugs in sport.