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Prof. Charles Ess – “Are Good Lives Possible in a (post-) Digital Era?”

May 11, 2016 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Are Good Lives Possible in a (post-) Digital Era?

I begin with an account of our human interests in a good life as circumscribed by shared interests in contentment, well-being, and (self-) fulfillment in relationship with others. I then ask how such good lives might be possible vis-à-vis two concrete examples of contemporary ICT instantiations: (1) “smart technologies,” including various forms of ambient intelligence and pre-emptive computing, and (2) social robots, specifically carebots and sexbots.  My larger argument – drawing in part on recent approaches to ethical ICT design, including Spiekermann (2015) – is that lives of human flourishing and contentment remain possible in a post-digital era. To achieve these, however, requires that we as human beings pay greater attention to our embodied and relational lives, so as to cultivate the skills and abilities (virtues) needed to sustain human autonomy vis-à-vis increasingly sophisticated technological environments and infrastructures designed to offload our agency in the names of economic efficiency and convenience.


Charles Ess is Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo, Norway. He works at the intersections of philosophy, computing, applied ethics, comparative philosophy, and media studies, with specific focus on research ethics, Digital Religion, and virtue ethics in media and communication, specifically social robots. Recent publications include Digital Media Ethics (Polity Press, 2009, 2nd ed. 2013), (co-editor) The Handbook of Internet Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and ‘What’s love got to do with it? Robots, sexuality, and the arts of being human,’ in M. Nørskov (ed.), Social Robots: Boundaries, Potential, Challenges, 57–79 (Ashgate, 2015). In 2015–16, he was a fellow of the Research Group The Ethics of Copying at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) in Bielefeld, Germany.


May 11, 2016
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm