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Study information

Ethics of Emerging Technologies

Module titleEthics of Emerging Technologies
Module codePHL2125
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Silvia Milano (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

From virtual reality to autonomous robots, and from pervasive digital surveillance to the algorithmic outsourcing of decisions across many domains, emerging technologies are revolutionising the way we live. This module will offer an opportunity to explore new and cutting-edge philosophical work on the ethical issues this raises.

Some of the authors of the weekly readings may be invited to discuss their work, giving students an opportunity to meet and interact with them directly. There are no pre-requisites for this module. Given this module’s focus on the interfaces between emerging technologies and ethics, it is suitable for non-specialist students with a keen interest in philosophy, and for interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • You will learn to identify and critically assess ethical issues raised by emerging technologies and critically engage with philosophical work in this area.
  • You will learn research skills in both self-motivated and group contexts.
  • You will develop core philosophical skills such as critical reflection, argumentation and clarity of expression.
  • Examining recent and forthcoming work will help you to cover new research methods and trends, and to understand the relevance of interdisciplinary inputs in philosophical research, and how to situate philosophical work within its disciplinary context.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate familiarity with current work on ethics of emerging technologies.
  • 2. Demonstrate an acquisition of knowledge of different ethical issues connected to new technological advancements.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Understand and engage with philosophical arguments.
  • 4. Problematise and assess philosophical implications of interdisciplinary issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Develop clear and concise written and oral communication skills.
  • 6. Demonstrate comprehension of complex ideas and writing.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics:

  • Autonomous robots and attributions of responsibility.
  • Value alignment and safety in the quest for general artificial intelligence.
  • Privacy and digital surveillance.
  • Can fairness be automated?
  • Algorithmic decisions and the right to an explanation.
  • Machine learning and epistemic justice.
  • The economic and environmental impacts of emerging technologies.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2211 x 2 hours per week comprising of lectures and seminars
Guided Independent Study48Reading and Research
Guided Independent Study38Preparation and writing of essay
Guided Independent Study20Preparation for seminar presentation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reading reports4 reports x 150 words1-6Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay702000 words1-6Written
Presentation3010 minutes1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay2000 words essay1-6August/September reassessment Period
Presentation 10 minutes presentation1-6August/September reassessment Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Noble, Safiya Umoja (2018). Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. NYU Press.
  • Vallor, Shannon (ed.) (forthcoming). Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Technology. Oxford University Press.
  • Véliz, Carissa (2021). Privacy is Power: Why and how you should take back control of your data. Corgi.
  • Williams, James (2018). Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy. Cambridge University Press.
  • O’Neil, Cathy (2017). Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Penguin.

Key words search

Ethics; Applied Ethics; Philosophy of Technology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date