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Robots and Moral Revolutions


John Danaher

National University of Ireland, Galway (IE)


John Danaher is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway. He is the author of Automation and Utopia (Harvard University Press, 2019), co-author of A Citizen's Guide to Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press 2021) and coeditor of Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications (MIT Press 2017). He has published dozens of papers on topics including the risks of advanced AI, the meaning of life and the future of work, the ethics of human enhancement, the intersection of law and neuroscience, the utility of brain-based lie detection, and the philosophy of religion.


Human societies have, historically, undergone a number of moral revolutions. Some of these have been precipitated by technological changes. Will the integration of robots into our social lives precipitate a new moral revolution? In this keynote, I will look at the history of moral revolutions and the role of techno-social change in facilitating those revolutions. I will examine the structural properties of human moral systems and how those properties might be affected by social robots. I will argue that much of our current social morality is agency-centric and that social robots, as non-standard agents, will disrupt that model.