A Survival Guide for
Advanced Species

Dr. Shannon Vallr
Santa Clara University

7pm Thursday
January 14, 2016

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What lies in store for the human family
in the next century and beyond?


Santa Clara University

Shannon Vallor is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, as well as President of the international Society for Philosophy and Technology (www.spt.org) and a scholar with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Her primary research and teaching expertise is the philosophy and ethics of emerging science and technology. Her current research project explores the impact of emerging technologies, particularly those involving automation, on the moral and intellectual habits, skills and virtues of human beings – that is, on our character.

Dr. Vallor has received several prestigious teaching awards and delivered invited and keynote addresses on these topics in the U.S., China, Europe and the U.K. She regularly speaks to audiences of professional engineers and students on the ethical dimensions of software engineering practice. She has published numerous articles on emerging technology ethics in the journals Ethics and Information Technology, Philosophy and Technology, and Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, as well as the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and several edited collections. She is also co-creator, with Princeton computer scientist Arvind Narayanan, of a free course module (An Introduction to Software Engineering Ethics) that has been used in 34 universities on 5 continents. 

For more information, please visit: http://www.shannonvallor.net/




Growing concerns about environmental degradation, climate change, artificial intelligence and other potentially ‘existential’ threats to human survival and flourishing have made the future of humanity seem increasingly tenuous. Such concerns haunt the popular imagination, as mirrored in the growing use of apocalyptic scenarios in film, television and literature. They can also be heard in the warnings and dire prognostications of climatologists, environmental scientists and science and technology leaders such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.

Are these voices alarmist, or do we have actual reasons to worry? Consider that one solution often posed to Fermi’s Paradox (the absence of detectable signals from intelligent alien life in a universe that hosts so many suitable planets) is the theory that technologically advanced species throughout the universe don’t last very long before they self-destruct - for example, by draining and toxifying nonrenewable resources, or by developing weapons of planet-killing power.

Yet the prospect of impending extinction by our own hand should not be our only concern. If our descendants do manage to live through the next few centuries, will they also be able to live well?

Her forthcoming book is titled 21st Century Virtue: Cultivating the Technomoral Self; it explores the means by which advanced technological cultures can acquire the moral capacities needed to live wisely and well in the 21st century and beyond.