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Robert Sparrow [69]R. Sparrow [3]Rob Sparrow [2]R. J. Sparrow [1]
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Profile: Robert Sparrow (Monash University)
Profile: Robert Sparrow (Monash University)
  1.  21
    Robert Sparrow (2015). Imposing Genetic Diversity. American Journal of Bioethics 15 (6):2-10.
    The idea that a world in which everyone was born “perfect” would be a world in which something valuable was missing often comes up in debates about the ethics of technologies of prenatal testing and preimplantation genetic diagnosis . This thought plays an important role in the “disability critique” of prenatal testing. However, the idea that human genetic variation is an important good with significant benefits for society at large is also embraced by a wide range of figures writing in (...)
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  2.  23
    Robert Sparrow (2014). Egalitarianism and Moral Bioenhancement. American Journal of Bioethics 14 (4):20-28.
    A number of philosophers working in applied ethics and bioethics are now earnestly debating the ethics of what they term “moral bioenhancement.” I argue that the society-wide program of biological manipulations required to achieve the purported goals of moral bioenhancement would necessarily implicate the state in a controversial moral perfectionism. Moreover, the prospect of being able to reliably identify some people as, by biological constitution, significantly and consistently more moral than others would seem to pose a profound challenge to egalitarian (...)
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  3. Robert Sparrow (2007). Killer Robots. Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (1):62–77.
    The United States Army’s Future Combat Systems Project, which aims to manufacture a “robot army” to be ready for deployment by 2012, is only the latest and most dramatic example of military interest in the use of artificially intelligent systems in modern warfare. This paper considers the ethics of a decision to send artificially intelligent robots into war, by asking who we should hold responsible when an autonomous weapon system is involved in an atrocity of the sort that would normally (...)
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  4.  20
    Robert Sparrow (2013). Gender Eugenics? The Ethics of PGD for Intersex Conditions. American Journal of Bioethics 13 (10):29 - 38.
    This article discusses the ethics of the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis to prevent the birth of children with intersex conditions/disorders of sex development , such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia and androgen insensitivity syndrome . While pediatric surgeries performed on children with ambiguous genitalia have been the topic of intense bioethical controversy, there has been almost no discussion to date of the ethics of the use of PGD to reduce the prevalence of these conditions. I suggest that PGD for those (...)
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  5. Robert Sparrow (2010). Better Than Men?: Sex and the Therapy/Enhancement Distinction. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 20 (2):pp. 115-144.
    The normative significance of the distinction between therapy and enhancement has come under sustained philosophical attack in recent discussions of the ethics of shaping future persons by means of preimplantation genetic diagnosis and other advanced genetic technologies. In this paper, I argue that giving up the idea that the answer to the question as to whether a condition is “normal” should play a crucial role in assessing the ethics of genetic interventions has unrecognized and strongly counterintuitive implications when it comes (...)
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  6.  46
    Robert Sparrow (2010). Should Human Beings Have Sex? Sexual Dimorphism and Human Enhancement. American Journal of Bioethics 10 (7):3-12.
    Since the first sex reassignment operations were performed, individual sex has come to be, to some extent at least, a technological artifact. The existence of sperm sorting technology, and of prenatal determination of fetal sex via ultrasound along with the option of termination, means that we now have the power to choose the sex of our children. An influential contemporary line of thought about medical ethics suggests that we should use technology to serve the welfare of individuals and to remove (...)
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  7.  69
    Robert Sparrow & Linda Sparrow (2006). In the Hands of Machines? The Future of Aged Care. Minds and Machines 16 (2):141-161.
    It is remarkable how much robotics research is promoted by appealing to the idea that the only way to deal with a looming demographic crisis is to develop robots to look after older persons. This paper surveys and assesses the claims made on behalf of robots in relation to their capacity to meet the needs of older persons. We consider each of the roles that has been suggested for robots in aged care and attempt to evaluate how successful robots might (...)
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  8. Robert Sparrow (2002). The March of the Robot Dogs. Ethics and Information Technology 4 (4):305-318.
    Following the success of Sony Corporation’s “AIBO”, robot cats and dogs are multiplying rapidly. “Robot pets” employing sophisticated artificial intelligence and animatronic technologies are now being marketed as toys and companions by a number of large consumer electronics corporations. -/- It is often suggested in popular writing about these devices that they could play a worthwhile role in serving the needs of an increasingly aging and socially isolated population. Robot companions, shaped like familiar household pets, could comfort and entertain lonely (...)
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  9. Robert Sparrow (2002). Talking Sense About Political Correctness. Journal of Australian Studies 73:119-133.
  10.  12
    Robert Sparrow (2011). A Not‐So‐New Eugenics. Hastings Center Report 41 (1):32-42.
    In Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People (2007), John Harris argues that a proper concern for the welfare of future human beings implies that we are morally obligated to pursue enhancements. Similarly, in “Procreative Beneficience: Why We Should Select The Best Children” (2001) and in a number of subsequent publications, Julian Savulescu has suggested that we are morally obligated to use genetic (and other) technologies to produce the best children possible. In this paper I argue that if (...)
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  11. Robert Sparrow (2007). Procreative Beneficence, Obligation, and Eugenics. Genomics, Society and Policy 3 (3):43-59.
    The argument of Julian Savulescu’s 2001 paper, “Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children” is flawed in a number of respects. Savulescu confuses reasons with obligations and equivocates between the claim that parents have some reason to want the best for their children and the more radical claim that they are morally obligated to attempt to produce the best child possible. Savulescu offers a prima facie implausible account of parental obligation, as even the best parents typically fail to (...)
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  12.  34
    Robert Sparrow (2014). Better Living Through Chemistry? A Reply to Savulescu and Persson on 'Moral Enhancement'. Journal of Applied Philosophy 31 (1):23-32.
    In ‘Moral Enhancement, Freedom, and the God Machine’, Savulescu and Persson argue that recent scientific findings suggest that there is a realistic prospect of achieving ‘moral enhancement’ and respond to Harris's criticism that this would threaten individual freedom and autonomy. I argue that although some pharmaceutical and neuro-scientific interventions may influence behaviour and emotions in ways that we may be inclined to evaluate positively, describing this as ‘moral enhancement’ presupposes a particular, contested account, of what it is to act morally (...)
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  13.  61
    Robert Sparrow (2009). Building a Better Warbot: Ethical Issues in the Design of Unmanned Systems for Military Applications. Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (2):169-187.
    Unmanned systems in military applications will often play a role in determining the success or failure of combat missions and thus in determining who lives and dies in times of war. Designers of UMS must therefore consider ethical, as well as operational, requirements and limits when developing UMS. I group the ethical issues involved in UMS design under two broad headings, Building Safe Systems and Designing for the Law of Armed Conflict, and identify and discuss a number of issues under (...)
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  14.  35
    R. Sparrow (2012). Fear of a Female Planet: How John Harris Came to Endorse Eugenic Social Engineering. Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (1):4-7.
    In this paper, I respond to criticisms by John Harris, contained in a commentary on my article “Harris, harmed states, and sexed bodies”, which appeared in the Journal of Medical Ethics, volume 37, number 5. I argue that Harris's response to my criticisms exposes the strong eugenic tendencies in his own thought, when he suggests that the reproductive obligations of parents should be determined with reference to a claim about what would enhance ‘society’ or ‘the species’.
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  15. Robert Sparrow (2005). Defending Deaf Culture: The Case of Cochlear Implants. Journal of Political Philosophy 13 (2):135–152.
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  16.  6
    Robert Sparrow (2015). Martial and Moral Courage in Teleoperated Warfare: A Commentary on Kirkpatrick. Journal of Military Ethics 14 (3-4):220-227.
    ABSTRACTJesse Kirkpatrick's ‘Drones and the Martial Virtue Courage’ constitutes the most thorough attempt to date to show that the operators of remotely piloted aircraft can display martial courage and therefore that it may sometimes be appropriate to award them military honours. I argue that while Kirkpatrick's account usefully draws our attention to the risks faced by drone operators and to the possibility that courage may be required to face these risks, he is much less successful in establishing that operators are (...)
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  17. Robert Sparrow (2009). Predators or Ploughshares? Arms Control of Robotic Weapons. IEEE Technology and Society 28 (1):25-29.
  18.  12
    Robert Sparrow (2010). A Not-so-New Eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on Human Enhancement. Asian Bioethics Review 2 (4):288-307.
    John Harris and Julian Savulescu, leading figures in the "new" eugenics, argue that parents are morally obligated to use genetic and other technologies to enhance their children. But the argument they give leads to conclusions even more radical than they acknowledge. Ultimately, the world it would lead to is not all that different from that championed by eugenicists one hundred years ago.
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  19.  6
    Robert Sparrow (2011). Harris, Harmed States, and Sexed Bodies. Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (5):276-279.
    This paper criticises John Harris's attempts to defend an account of a ‘harmed condition’ that can stand independently of intuitions about what is ‘normal’. I argue that because Homo sapiens is a sexually dimorphic species, determining whether a particular individual is in a harmed condition or not will sometimes require making reference to the normal capacities of their sex. Consequently, Harris's account is unable to play the role he intends for it in debates about the ethics of human enhancement.
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  20.  7
    Robert Sparrow (2014). Ethics, Eugenics, and Politics. In Akira Akabayashi (ed.), The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. OUP Oxford 139--53.
    This chapter will sketch a political critique of recent arguments for human enhancement. While on paper it may be possible to sketch out visions of a world in which the pursuit of genetic enhancement of human beings does not lead to a renewed interest in racial hygiene and widespread violations of human rights, the political assumptions one must make in order to hold that this is possible in the real world are – I will argue – excessively optimistic. In reality, (...)
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  21.  34
    Robert Sparrow (2004). The Turing Triage Test. Ethics and Information Technology 6 (4):203-213.
    If, as a number of writers have predicted, the computers of the future will possess intelligence and capacities that exceed our own then it seems as though they will be worthy of a moral respect at least equal to, and perhaps greater than, human beings. In this paper I propose a test to determine when we have reached that point. Inspired by Alan Turing’s (1950) original “Turing test”, which argued that we would be justified in conceding that machines could think (...)
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  22.  69
    Robert Sparrow (2008). Is It “Every Man's Right to Have Babies If He Wants Them”?: Male Pregnancy and the Limits of Reproductive Liberty. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 18 (3):pp. 275-299.
    Since the 1980s, a number of medical researchers have suggested that in the future it might be possible for men to become pregnant. Given the role played by the right to reproductive liberty in other debates about reproductive technologies, it will be extremely difficult to deny that this right extends to include male pregnancy. However, this constitutes a reductio ad absurdum of the idea of reproductive liberty. One therefore would be well advised to look again at the extent of this (...)
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  23.  17
    Robert Sparrow & Dale Gardiner (2010). Not Dead Yet: Controlled Non-Heart-Beating Organ Donation, Consent, and the Dead Donor Rule. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (1):17-26.
    The emergence of controlled, Maastricht Category III, non-heart-beating organ donation programs has the potential to greatly increase the supply of donor solid organs by increasing the number of potential donors. Category III donation involves unconscious and dying intensive care patients whose organs become available for transplant after life-sustaining treatments are withdrawn, usually on grounds of futility. The shortfall in organs from heart-beating organ donation following brain death has prompted a surge of interest in NHBD. In a recent editorial, the British (...)
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  24. Robert Sparrow (2002). Better Off Deaf. Res Publica 11 (1): 11-16.
  25.  6
    Robert Sparrow (2008). Genes, Identity, and the Expressivist Critique. In Loane Skene and Janna Thompson (ed.), The Sorting Society. Cambridge University Press 111-132..
    In this paper, I explore the “expressivist critique” of the use of prenatal testing to select against the birth of persons with impairments. I begin by setting out the expressivist critique and then highlighting, through an investigation of an influential objection to this critique, the ways in which both critics and proponents of the use of technologies of genetic selection negotiate a difficult set of dilemmas surrounding the relationship between genes and identity. I suggest that we may be able to (...)
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  26.  25
    Dale Gardiner & Robert Sparrow (2010). Not Dead Yet: Controlled Non-Heart-Beating Organ Donation, Consent, and the Dead Donor Rule. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (1):17.
    The emergence of controlled, Maastricht Category III, non-heart-beating organ donation programs has the potential to greatly increase the supply of donor solid organs by increasing the number of potential donors. Category III donation involves unconscious and dying intensive care patients whose organs become available for transplant after life-sustaining treatments are withdrawn, usually on grounds of futility. The shortfall in organs from heart-beating organ donation following brain death has prompted a surge of interest in NHBD. In a recent editorial, the British (...)
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  27. Robert Sparrow (2004). Censorship and Freedom of Speech. In Justin Healy (ed.), Censorship and Free Speech. The Spinney Press 1-4.
  28.  72
    Robert Sparrow (2009). The Social Impacts of Nanotechnology: An Ethical and Political Analysis. [REVIEW] Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6 (1):13-23.
    This paper attempts some predictions about the social consequences of nanotechnology and the ethical issues they raise. I set out four features of nanotechnology that are likely to be important in determining its impact and argue that nanotechnology will have significant social impacts in—at least—the areas of health and medicine, the balance of power between citizens and governments, and the balance of power between citizens and corporations. More importantly, responding to the challenge of nanotechnology will require confronting “philosophical” questions about (...)
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  29.  15
    Robert Sparrow (2013). Sexism and Human Enhancement. Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (12):732-735.
    Given the morally disastrous history of eugenics, one might have thought that contemporary advocates of genetic human enhancement would be especially mindful of the historical resonances of the arguments they put forward. Two aspects of Paula Casal's defence of enhancement against my recent criticisms are therefore more than a little surprising.1i First, her hypothetical case for sex selection for ‘moral enhancement’ relies on claims drawn from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, which are at best controversial and at worst represent pseudo-scientific rationalisations (...)
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  30. Robert Sparrow (2010). Implants and Ethnocide: Learning From the Cochlear Implant Controversy. Disability and Society 25 (4):455-466.
    This paper uses the fictional case of the ‘Babel fish’ to explore and illustrate the issues involved in the controversy about the use of cochlear implants in prelinguistically deaf children. Analysis of this controversy suggests that the development of genetic tests for deafness poses a serious threat to the continued flourishing of Deaf culture. I argue that the relationships between Deaf and hearing cultures that are revealed and constructed in debates about genetic testing are themselves deserving of ethical evaluation. Making (...)
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  31.  14
    Robert Sparrow (2013). Queerin' the PGD Clinic. Journal of Medical Humanities 34 (2):177-196.
    Disability activists influenced by queer theory and advocates of “human enhancement” have each disputed the idea that what is “normal” is normatively significant, which currently plays a key role in the regulation of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Previously, I have argued that the only way to avoid the implication that parents have strong reasons to select children of one sex (most plausibly, female) over the other is to affirm the moral significance of sexually dimorphic human biological norms. After outlining the (...)
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  32.  79
    Robert Sparrow (2011). Liberalism and Eugenics. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (3):499 - 517.
    ‘Liberal eugenics’ has emerged as the most popular position amongst philosophers writing in the contemporary debate about the ethics of human enhancement. This position has been most clearly articulated by Nicholas Agar, who argues that the ‘new’ liberal eugenics can avoid the repugnant consequences associated with eugenics in the past. Agar suggests that parents should be free to make only those interventions into the genetics of their children that will benefit them no matter what way of life they grow up (...)
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  33.  61
    Robert Sparrow (1999). The Ethics of Terraforming. Environmental Ethics 21 (3):227-245.
    I apply an agent-based virtue ethics to issues in environmental philosophy regarding our treatment of complex inorganic systems. I consider the ethics of terraforming: hypothetical planetary engineering on a vast scale which is aimed at producing habitable environments on otherwise “hostile” planets. I argue that the undertaking of such a project demonstrates at least two serious defects of moral character: an aesthetic insensitivity and the sin of hubris. Trying to change whole planets to suit our ends is arrogant vandalism. I (...)
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  34.  26
    Robert Sparrow (2007). Revolutionary and Familiar, Inevitable and Precarious: Rhetorical Contradictions in Enthusiasm for Nanotechnology. [REVIEW] NanoEthics 1 (1):57-68.
    This paper analyses rhetorics of scientific and corporate enthusiasm surrounding nanotechnology. I argue that enthusiasts for nanotechnologies often try to have it both ways on questions concerning the nature and possible impact of these technologies, and the inevitability of their development and use. In arguments about their nature and impact we are simultaneously informed that these are revolutionary technologies with the potential to profoundly change the world and that they merely represent the extension of existing technologies. They are revolutionary and (...)
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  35.  22
    Robert Sparrow (2000). History and Collective Responsibility. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78 (3):346 – 359.
    In this paper I will argue that contemporary non-Aboriginal Australians can collectively be held responsible for past injustices committed against the Aboriginal peoples of this land. An examination of the role played by history in determining the nature of the present reveals both the temporal extension of the Australian community that confronts the question of responsibility for historical injustice and the ways in which we continue to participate in those same injustices. Because existing injustices suffered by indigenous Australians are essentially (...)
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  36.  39
    Robert Sparrow (2005). “Hands Up Who Wants to Die?”: Primoratz on Responsibility and Civilian Immunity in Wartime. [REVIEW] Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (3):299 - 319.
    The question of the morality of war is something of an embarrassment to liberal political thinkers. A philosophical tradition which aspires to found its preferred institutions in respect for individual autonomy, contract, and voluntary association, is naturally confronted by a phenomenon that is almost exclusively explained and justified in the language of States, force and territory. But the apparent difficulties involved in providing a convincing account of nature and ethics of war in terms of relations between individuals has not prevented (...)
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  37.  74
    Robert Sparrow (2009). Therapeutic Cloning and Reproductive Liberty. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 33 (2):1-17.
    Concern for “reproductive liberty” suggests that decisions about embryos should normally be made by the persons who would be the genetic parents of the child that would be brought into existence if the embryo were brought to term. Therapeutic cloning would involve creating and destroying an embryo, which, if brought to term, would be the offspring of the genetic parents of the person undergoing therapy. I argue that central arguments in debates about parenthood and genetics therefore suggest that therapeutic cloning (...)
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  38.  5
    R. J. Sparrow (2013). The Perils of Post-Persons. Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (2):80-81.
    The willingness of some scientists, futurists … and now philosophers to contemplate—or even actively pursue—their own obsolescence is a source of genuine wonder. Writers such as Hans Moravec,1 Ray Kurzweil2 and Nick Bostrom3 blithely maintain that we will soon be outclassed by our own cybernetic creations as though this were a prospect that could only be celebrated and not feared. In this context, one can only applaud Agar's clearheaded investigation4 of the prospects for creating ‘post-persons’ and his eminently sensible conclusion (...)
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  39.  21
    Rob Sparrow (2012). Human Enhancement and Sexual Dimorphism. Bioethics 26 (9):464-475.
    I argue that the existence of sexual dimorphism poses a profound challenge to those philosophers who wish to deny the moral significance of the idea of ‘normal human capacities’ in debates about the ethics of human enhancement. The biological sex of a child will make a much greater difference to their life prospects than many of the genetic variations that the philosophical and bioethical literature has previously been concerned with. It seems, then, that bioethicists should have something to say about (...)
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  40.  10
    Robert Sparrow (2016). If People Were Movies? Free Speech and Free Association. Journal of Political Philosophy 24 (2):227-244.
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  41.  20
    Robert Sparrow (2014). (Im)Moral Technology? Thought Experiments and the Future of `Mind Control'. In Akira Akayabashi (ed.), The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford University Press 113-119.
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  42.  7
    Robert Sparrow (2015). Drones, Courage, and Military Culture. In Jr Lucas (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Military Ethics. Routledge 380-394.
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  43.  26
    Robert Sparrow (2006). Right of the Living Dead? Consent to Experimental Surgery in the Event of Cortical Death. Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (10):601-605.
    Ravelingien et al have suggested that early human xenotransplantation trials should be carried out on patients who are in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) and who have previously granted their consent to the use of their bodies in such research in the event of their cortical death. Unfortunately, their philosophical defence of this suggestion is unsatisfactory in its current formulation, as it equivocates on the key question of the status of patients who are in a PVS. The solution proposed by (...)
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  44.  9
    Robert Sparrow (2015). Enhancement and Obsolescence: Avoiding an "Enhanced Rat Race". Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 25 (3):231-260.
    A claim about continuing technological progress plays an essential, if unacknowledged, role in the philosophical literature on “human enhancement.” Advocates for enhancement typically point to the rapid progress being made in biotechnology, information technology, and nanotechnology as evidence that we will soon be able to achieve significant improvements on normal human capacities using these technologies.In this paper, I will argue that—should it eventuate—continuous improvement in enhancement technologies may prove more bane than benefit. The phenomenon that inspires the argument that follows (...)
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  45. Robert Sparrow (2008). Talkin' 'Bout a (Nanotechnological) Revolution. IEEE Technology and Society 27 (2):37-43.
    It is often claimed that the development of nanotechnology will constitute a “technological revolution” with profound social, economic, and political consequences. The full implications of this claim can best be understood by imagining a scenario in which a political revolutionary made all the same claims that are commonly made by enthusiasts for nanotechnology. I argue that most people would be outraged to learn that the members of an unelected group were planning to radically reshape society in this fashion. I survey (...)
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  46.  16
    A. Wendy Russell & Robert Sparrow (2008). The Case for Regulating Intragenic GMOs. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 21 (2):153-181.
    This paper discusses the ethical and regulatory issues raised by ‘‘intragenics’’ – organisms that have been genetically modified using gene technologies, but that do not contain DNA from another species. Considering the rapid development of knowledge about gene regulation and genomics, we anticipate rapid advances in intragenic methods. Of regulatory systems developed to govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, the Australian system stands out in explicitly excluding intragenics from regulation. European systems are also (...)
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  47.  16
    Robert Mark Simpson & Robert Sparrow (2014). Nanotechnologically Enhanced Combat Systems: The Downside of Invulnerability. In Bert Gordijn & Anthony Mark Cutter (eds.), In Pursuit of Nanoethics. Springer 89-103.
    In this paper we examine the ethical implications of emerging Nanotechnologically Enhanced Combat Systems (or 'NECS'). Through a combination of materials innovation and biotechnology, NECS are aimed at making combatants much less vulnerable to munitions that pose a lethal threat to soldiers protected by conventional armor. We argue that increasing technological disparities between forces armed with NECS and those without will exacerbate the ethical problems of asymmetric warfare. This will place pressure on the just war principles of jus in bello, (...)
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  48.  37
    A. Wendy Russell & Robert Sparrow (2008). The Case for Regulating Intragenic Gmos. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 21 (2):153-181.
    This paper discusses the ethical and regulatory issues raised by “intragenics” – organisms that have been genetically modified using gene technologies, but that do not contain DNA from another species. Considering the rapid development of knowledge about gene regulation and genomics, we anticipate rapid advances in intragenic methods. Of regulatory systems developed to govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, the Australian system stands out in explicitly excluding intragenics from regulation. European systems are also (...)
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  49.  14
    Robert Sparrow (2014). What We Can - and Cannot - Learn About the Ethics of Enhancement by Thinking About Sport. In Akira Akayabashi (ed.), The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford University Press 218-223.
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  50.  5
    Robert Sparrow (2015). Twenty Seconds to Comply: Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Recognition of Surrender. International Law Studies 91:699-728.
    Would it be ethical to deploy autonomous weapon systems (AWS) if they were unable to reliably recognize when enemy forces had surrendered? I suggest that an inability to reliably recognize surrender would not prohibit the ethical deployment of AWS where there was a limited window of opportunity for targets to surrender between the launch of the AWS and its impact. However, the operations of AWS with a high degree of autonomy and/or long periods of time between release and impact are (...)
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