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Robert Sparrow
Monash University
  1.  90
    Yesterday’s Child: How Gene Editing for Enhancement Will Produce Obsolescence—and Why It Matters.Robert Sparrow - 2019 - American Journal of Bioethics 19 (7):6-15.
    Despite the advent of CRISPR, safe and effective gene editing for human enhancement remains well beyond our current technological capabilities. For the discussion about enhancing human beings to be worth having, then, we must assume that gene-editing technology will improve rapidly. However, rapid progress in the development and application of any technology comes at a price: obsolescence. If the genetic enhancements we can provide children get better and better each year, then the enhancements granted to children born in any given (...)
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  2. Killer Robots.Robert Sparrow - 2007 - 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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  3. Better Living Through Chemistry? A Reply to Savulescu and Persson on ‘Moral Enhancement’.Robert Sparrow - 2014 - 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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  4. In the Hands of Machines? The Future of Aged Care.Robert Sparrow & Linda Sparrow - 2006 - 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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  5. Egalitarianism and Moral Bioenhancement.Robert Sparrow - 2014 - 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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  6.  51
    Robots, Rape, and Representation.Robert Sparrow - 2017 - International Journal of Social Robotics 9 (4):465-477.
    Sex robots are likely to play an important role in shaping public understandings of sex and of relations between the sexes in the future. This paper contributes to the larger project of understanding how they will do so by examining the ethics of the “rape” of robots. I argue that the design of realistic female robots that could explicitly refuse consent to sex in order to facilitate rape fantasy would be unethical because sex with robots in these circumstances is a (...)
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  7.  95
    Robots in Aged Care: A Dystopian Future.Robert Sparrow - 2016 - AI and Society 31 (4):1-10.
    In this paper I describe a future in which persons in advanced old age are cared for entirely by robots and suggest that this would be a dystopia, which we would be well advised to avoid if we can. Paying attention to the objective elements of welfare rather than to people’s happiness reveals the central importance of respect and recognition, which robots cannot provide, to the practice of aged care. A realistic appreciation of the current economics of the aged care (...)
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  8.  88
    Imposing Genetic Diversity.Robert Sparrow - 2015 - 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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  9.  26
    Robots and Respect: Assessing the Case Against Autonomous Weapon Systems.Robert Sparrow - 2016 - Ethics and International Affairs 30 (1):93-116.
    There is increasing speculation within military and policy circles that the future of armed conflict is likely to include extensive deployment of robots designed to identify targets and destroy them without the direct oversight of a human operator. My aim in this paper is twofold. First, I will argue that the ethical case for allowing autonomous targeting, at least in specific restricted domains, is stronger than critics have acknowledged. Second, I will attempt to uncover, explicate, and defend the intuition that (...)
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  10. A Not‐So‐New Eugenics.Robert Sparrow - 2011 - 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.  25
    Sex Robot Fantasies.Robert Sparrow - 2021 - Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (1):33-34.
    Nancy Jecker is right when she says that older persons ought not to be ashamed if they wish to remain sexually active in advanced old age. She offers a useful account of the role that sexuality plays in supporting key human capabilities. However, Jecker assumes an exaggerated account of what sex robots are likely to be able to offer for the foreseeable future when she suggests that we are obligated to make them available to older persons with disabilities. Moreover, whether (...)
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  12. Better Than Men?: Sex and the Therapy/Enhancement Distinction.Robert Sparrow - 2010 - 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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  13. Procreative Beneficence, Obligation, and Eugenics.Robert Sparrow - 2007 - 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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  14. The March of the Robot Dogs.Robert Sparrow - 2002 - 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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  15. Defending Deaf Culture: The Case of Cochlear Implants.Robert Sparrow - 2005 - Journal of Political Philosophy 13 (2):135–152.
  16.  98
    Should Human Beings Have Sex? Sexual Dimorphism and Human Enhancement.Robert Sparrow - 2010 - 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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  17.  31
    Enhancement and Obsolescence: Avoiding an "Enhanced Rat Race".Robert Sparrow - 2015 - 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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  18.  50
    Gender Eugenics? The Ethics of PGD for Intersex Conditions.Robert Sparrow - 2013 - 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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  19.  26
    High Hopes for “Deep Medicine”? AI, Economics, and the Future of Care.Robert Sparrow & Joshua Hatherley - 2020 - Hastings Center Report 50 (1):14-17.
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  20. Building a Better Warbot: Ethical Issues in the Design of Unmanned Systems for Military Applications.Robert Sparrow - 2009 - 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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  21.  54
    A Not-so-New Eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on Human Enhancement.Robert Sparrow - 2010 - 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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  22.  29
    Predators or Ploughshares? Arms Control of Robotic Weapons.Robert Sparrow - 2009 - IEEE Technology and Society 28 (1):25-29.
    This paper makes the case for arms control regimes to govern the development and deployment of autonomous weapon systems and long range uninhabited aerial vehicles.
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  23.  38
    In Vitro Eugenics.Robert Sparrow - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (11):725-731.
    A series of recent scientific results suggest that, in the not-too-distant future, it will be possible to create viable human gametes from human stem cells. This paper discusses the potential of this technology to make possible what I call ‘in vitro eugenics’: the deliberate breeding of human beings in vitro by fusing sperm and egg derived from different stem-cell lines to create an embryo and then deriving new gametes from stem cells derived from that embryo. Repeated iterations of this process (...)
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  24.  69
    The Turing Triage Test.Robert Sparrow - 2004 - 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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  25. Liberalism and Eugenics.Robert Sparrow - 2011 - 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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  26.  32
    Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement, by Persson, Ingmar, and Julian Savulescu: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Pp. Ix + 143, £21.00. [REVIEW]Robert Sparrow - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (2):404-407.
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  27. Can Machines Be People? Reflections on the Turing Triage Test.Robert Sparrow - 2012 - In Patrick Lin, Keith Abney & George Bekey (eds.), Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics. MIT Press. pp. 301-315.
     
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  28.  32
    Orphaned at Conception: The Uncanny Offspring of Embryos.Robert Sparrow - 2012 - Bioethics 26 (4):173-181.
    A number of advances in assisted reproduction have been greeted by the accusation that they would produce children ‘without parents’. In this paper I will argue that while to date these accusations have been false, there is a limited but important sense in which they would be true of children born of a reproductive technology that is now on the horizon. If our genetic parents are those individuals from whom we have inherited 50% of our genes, then, unlike in any (...)
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  29.  73
    Not Dead Yet: Controlled Non-Heart-Beating Organ Donation, Consent, and the Dead Donor Rule.Dale Gardiner & Robert Sparrow - 2010 - 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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  30. Is It “Every Man's Right to Have Babies If He Wants Them”?: Male Pregnancy and the Limits of Reproductive Liberty.Robert Sparrow - 2008 - 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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  31.  6
    Robotics Has a Race Problem.Robert Sparrow - 2020 - Science, Technology, and Human Values 45 (3):538-560.
    If people are inclined to attribute race to humanoid robots, as recent research suggests, then designers of social robots confront a difficult choice. Most existing social robots have white surfaces and are therefore, I suggest, likely to be perceived as White, exposing their designers to accusations of racism. However, manufacturing robots that would be perceived as Black, Brown, or Asian risks representing people of these races as slaves, especially given the historical associations between robots and slaves at the very origins (...)
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  32.  62
    Fear of a Female Planet: How John Harris Came to Endorse Eugenic Social Engineering.Robert Sparrow - 2012 - 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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  33. (Im)Moral Technology? Thought Experiments and the Future of `Mind Control'.Robert Sparrow - 2014 - In Akira Akayabashi (ed.), The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford University Press. pp. 113-119.
     
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  34. Implants and Ethnocide: Learning From the Cochlear Implant Controversy.Robert Sparrow - 2010 - 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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  35.  38
    Commentary: Moral Bioenhancement Worthy of the Name.Robert Sparrow - 2017 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 26 (3):411-414.
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  36.  40
    Genes, Identity, and the Expressivist Critique.Robert Sparrow - 2008 - In Loane Skene and Janna Thompson (ed.), The Sorting Society. Cambridge University Press. pp. 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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  37. Drones, Courage, and Military Culture.Robert Sparrow - 2015 - In Jr Lucas (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Military Ethics. Routledge. pp. 380-394.
     
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  38.  18
    What Pacemakers Can Teach Us About the Ethics of Maintaining Artificial Organs.Katrina Hutchison & Robert Sparrow - 2016 - Hastings Center Report 46 (6):14-24.
    One day soon it may be possible to replace a failing heart, liver, or kidney with a long-lasting mechanical replacement or perhaps even with a 3-D printed version based on the patient's own tissue. Such artificial organs could make transplant waiting lists and immunosuppression a thing of the past. Supposing that this happens, what will the ongoing care of people with these implants involve? In particular, how will the need to maintain the functioning of artificial organs over an extended period (...)
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  39. Twenty Seconds to Comply: Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Recognition of Surrender.Robert Sparrow - 2015 - 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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  40.  33
    Queerin’ the PGD Clinic: Human Enhancement and the Future of Bodily Diversity.Robert Sparrow - 2013 - 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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  41.  54
    History and Collective Responsibility.Robert Sparrow - 2000 - 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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  42.  54
    Cloning, Parenthood, and Genetic Relatedness.Robert Sparrow - 2006 - Bioethics 20 (6):308–318.
    In this paper I examine what I take to be the best case for reproductive human cloning, as a medical procedure designed to overcome infertility, and argue that it founders on an irresolvable tension in the attitude towards the importance of being ‘genetically related’ to our children implied in the desire to clone. Except in the case where couples are cloning a child they have previously conceived naturally, cloning is unable to establish the right sort of genetic relation to make (...)
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  43.  29
    Paper: Harris, Harmed States, and Sexed Bodies.Robert Sparrow - 2011 - 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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  44. The Ethics of Terraforming.Robert Sparrow - 1999 - 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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  45.  18
    Robots as “Evil Means”? A Rejoinder to Jenkins and Purves.Robert Sparrow - 2016 - Ethics and International Affairs 30 (3):401-403.
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  46.  13
    The Perils of Post-Persons.Robert James Sparrow - 2013 - 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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  47.  39
    Revolutionary and Familiar, Inevitable and Precarious: Rhetorical Contradictions in Enthusiasm for Nanotechnology.Robert Sparrow - 2007 - 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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  48. War Without Virtue?Robert Sparrow - 2013 - In Bradley Jay Strawser (ed.), Killing By Remote Control. Oxford University Press. pp. 84-105.
    A number of recent and influential accounts of military ethics have argued that there exists a distinctive “role morality” for members of the armed services—a “warrior code.” A “good warrior” is a person who cultivates and exercises the “martial” or “warrior” virtues. By transforming combat into a “desk job” that can be conducted from the safety of the home territory of advanced industrial powers without need for physical strength or martial valour, long-range robotic weapons, such as the “Predator” and “Reaper” (...)
     
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  49.  55
    “Hands Up Who Wants to Die?”: Primoratz on Responsibility and Civilian Immunity in Wartime.Robert Sparrow - 2005 - 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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  50.  27
    Ethics, Eugenics, and Politics.Robert Sparrow - 2014 - In Akira Akabayashi (ed.), The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford University Press. pp. 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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