Biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Identity

andrew moeller

Biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Identity

Thursday 17 October 2024, 9am

St Luke's Chapel, Radcliffe Humanities 

Convenors: Andrew Moeller (Faculty of History); Alberto Giubilini (Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics)


With the rapid development of AI and biotechnologies come vast powers to reshape ourselves and the natural world. Whether it is about human-animal chimeras, CRISPR-CAS9, mass automation, or brain-computer interfaces, there exists an urgent need for broad societal discussions to help chart a responsible path forward.

As technological advances grant us new powers, so do they blur some boundaries between humans, animals, and machines, prodding us to ask the question: what does it mean to be human? 

The Biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Identity Conference brings together scholars from across disciplines to assess the right uses of AI and biotechnologies. 

In the medical and healthcare context, these technologies have the potential to help  persons with a wide range of physical disabilities. It is likely that medicine and healthcare will be among the first fields of application of such technologies.

But some suggest their use can be extended well beyond therapeutic interventions.  Through these technologies, the boundaries between therapies and enhancement become blurred and the power to alter fundamental aspects of human nature and human relationships is increased. For instance, we could potentially control the emotions or physical actions of another person via an implant in our brain and in their own. Or control the pleasure centres in our own brains. It may not also be clear who has primary agency when it comes to a particular act or decision. We might be able to heighten our own alertness and awareness and increase other capacities. And so on.

With the potential for what some might consider the misuse of these technologies, how do they challenge traditional views on human nature? And conversely, how proposed, shared aspects of our humanity ought to shape personal, societal, and governmental positions on the right uses of biotechnologies and AI?

By considering what it means to be human, we believe we can foster more substantial and productive debates and encourage broader societal involvement in these debates. These are matters for the whole human family, as they relate to our very nature as human beings, as well as our place within the natural order.


PROVISIONAL PROGRAM (more details to follow)


Morning session: Artificial Intelligence and Human Identity

9.15-9.30                      Welcome/Intro (Alberto Giubilini)


9.30-10.15                     Keynote: John Haldane and Q&A


10.15-10.35                  Ekaterina Hertog

10.35-10.55                  Jieun Kaier

10.55-11.15                  Kathleen Richardson


11.15-11.40                  Coffee break


11.40-12.05                   Q&A/Discussion on the morning sessions


12.05-12.50                   Keynote: Keith Lemna and Q&A


12.50-13.00                   Angeliki Kerasidou: wrapping up the morning discussion


13.00-14.00 LUNCH


Afternoon session: Biotechnologies and Human Identity


14.00-14.20                  Andrew Moeller

14.20-14.40                  Ann-Marie Shorrocks

14.40-15.00                  Mette Hoeg

15.00-15.20                  Anna Puzio


15.20-15.40                  Coffee break


15.40-16.10                  Q&A/discussion on the afternoon session


16.10-16.55                  Keynote: Bill Hurlbut and Q&A


16.55-17.10                  Michael Parker: wrapping up the day


17.10-17.15                  Conclusion (Andrew Moeller)


Biographies of the speakers:

William Hurlbut MD:

William B. Hurlbut is Adjunct Professor and Senior Research Scholar in Neurobiology at the Stanford Medical School. He is the founder and principal investigator of the Boundaries of Humanity Project. His primary areas of interest involve the ethical issues associated with advancing biomedical technology, the biological basis of moral awareness, and studies in the integration of theology with the philosophy of biology. He is the author of numerous publications on science and ethics. In addition to teaching at Stanford, he has also worked with NASA on projects in astrobiology and was a member of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Working group at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. From 2002-2009, Dr. Hurlbut served on the President’s Council on Bioethics.


Keith Lemna, PhD:

Dr. Lemna is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Benedictine-run Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Southern Indiana, where he has taught for over a decade. Dr. Lemna is the author of The Apocalypse of Wisdom (Angelico Press, 2019), a 2020 Catholic Press Association book award winner in the category of theological and philosophical studies. He has published scholarly articles in numerous journals, including The Heythrop Journal, Nova et Vetera, Communio: International Catholic Review, International Philosophical Quarterly, Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, The Gregorianum, and Antiphon.


Andrew Moeller, PhD:

Andrew Moeller is a historian and ethicist who is a researcher in ethics and humanities and co-director of religious outreach for the Boundaries of Humanity Project, based at Stanford University. He is also an associate member of the History Faculty at the University of Oxford. His historical work focuses on the history of eugenics and other population control measures, as well as the intersecting history of Christianity in the twentieth century. His contemporary work, aligned with the goals of the Boundaries of Humanity Project, explores how notions of human uniqueness and identity might shape public and private engagement with emerging biotechnologies. 


Mette Leonard Høeg, PhD:

Mette Leonard Høeg is a Carlsberg Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Interacting Minds Centre, University of Aarhus, an academic visitor at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and associated fellow at the Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing, University of Oxford. With an interdisciplinary background in literature, narrative theory and philosophy, her work currently focuses on the ethical and existential dimensions of modern consciousness research, with a special interest in the potential of psychedelics for enhancement of morality and wellbeing. She is the author of Uncertainty and Undecidability in Twentieth Century Literature and Literary Theory (Routledge, 2022). 


Ann-Marie Shorrocks, PhD:

Ann-Marie Shorrocks is a graduate medical student at the University of Oxford. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge before completing a PhD in Oncology at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral research focused on investigating the consequences of cellular damage that occurs naturally as we age. Building on her study of the biological process of DNA damage accumulation and its impact on aging, she is also interested in cotemporary moral questions pertaining to our cultural understanding of death and dying, and especially weighing the importance of one's quality of life in contrast to simply prolonging it.


Ekaterina Hertog, PhD:

Ekaterina Hertog is Associate Professor in AI and Society at Oxford Internet Institute and Ethics in AI Institute. Her research interests lie at the intersection of digital sociology and family sociology. She leads the ESRC-funded DomesticAI project that scopes new technologies’ potential to free up time now locked into unpaid domestic labour and measures how willing people are to introduce these technologies into their private lives. Until December 2021, Professor Hertog was a research fellow at the GenTime research project, investigating gender differences in time use in East Asia. Her time use research looks at factors that impact the gender balance in the domestic division of labour, associations between children’s time use patterns and their natal family characteristics, and gender differences in time use at old age. Professor Hertog’s earlier study of never-married single mothers in Japan that provides an in-depth analysis of Japanese women’s decision-making on childbearing issues and the related value systems was published as a book by Stanford University Press titled Tough Choices: Bearing an Illegitimate Child in Japan. 


Jieun Kiae, PhD:

Jieun Kiaer is the YBM-KF Professor of Korean Linguistics at the University of Oxford’s Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Faculty. Her research encompasses Asian linguistics, focusing on marginalized languages, and multimodal linguistics, including gesture studies. She also investigates the impact of AI on linguistic justice and diversity, with a specific emphasis on minoritized and under-resourced languages. As a linguist, pragmatist, and specialist in Asian studies, Professor Kiaer has published extensively in theoretical and applied linguistics as well as translation studies. Her work transcends traditional Western, text-centric approaches to language, embracing non-European and multi-modal perspectives to offer a more nuanced understanding of human communication. 


Kathleen Richardson, PhD:

Kathleen Richardson is Professor of Culture and Ethics of Robots and AI at De Montfort University's Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR). She also leads a research group in Women, Ethics, Robots, AI and Data (WERAID) that explores how women and children are impacted by representational technologies of the human. In 2015 she launched the Campaign Against Sex (Porn) Robots to draw attention to the crisis in human relationships generated by sexism, inequality and pornography. She is author of two books, An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machine (2015) and Challenging Sociality: An Anthropology of Robots, Autism and Attachment (2018), and is co-editor of The Sexual Politics of Sex Dolls and Sex Robots (2023).

John Haldane, PhD:

John Haldane is the J. Newton Rayzor Sr. Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, and since 1994 he has been Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews University, Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (since 1984) and formerly Head of the School of Philosophy, Anthropology, Film and Music. He continues part-time as a professor of philosophy at St Andrews and as co-director of CEPPA. John Haldane has published some 200 academic papers covering areas such as the history of philosophy, philosophy of the mind, metaphysics, and moral and social philosophy. In addition to his academic work, he writes for newspapers and periodicals and appears on radio and television.


Anna Puzio, PhD:

Anna Puzio research focus on matters of philosophical anthropology and ethics of emerging technologies. She explores the transformation of the human being, the relationships with the non-human (such as animals and technology), diversity, New Materialism, robot ethics, and medical technologies. Her doctoral thesis in Munich was on the anthropology of transhumanism.  After working in Münster, Munich, Frankfurt a. M., Vienna, and Oxford, she is currently working in the research program "Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies" at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.


Angeliki Kerasidou, PhD:  

Angeliki Kerasidou is Nuffield Department of Public Health (NDPH) Senior Fellow at the Ethox Centre and a Research Fellow at the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford. She studied theology and philosophy in Greece, Germany and the UK, and received her DPhil in 2009 from Oxford University. Angeliki’s research focuses on ethical issues that arise from the introduction of new technologies to, and the effect of socio-economic changes, on biomedical research and clinical practice. Using philosophical analysis and empirical research, she is examining the ways in which these factors impact on the theory and the practice of professional ethics for biomedical researchers and healthcare staff.


Alberto Giublilini, PhD:

Alberto Giublilini Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Oxford Ethics and Humanities. He works mostly on issues around public health ethics, particularly the ethics of freedom restrictions in public health policy and vaccination ethics; and on issues around medical and professional ethics, particularly conscientious objection in health care He has a co-authored book on the ethics of conscientious objection in health care forthcoming with Oxford University Press and is the author of The Ethics of Vaccination (Palgrave MacMillan 2019).


Michael Parker, PhD:

Michael Parker is Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Ethox Centre at the University of Oxford. He leads a programme of cross-disciplinary research focused on the identification and analysis of ethical problems presented by advances in genomics, data science, and global health. He has particular theoretical and methodological interests in moral disagreement and value pluralism. Much of this work takes place in the context of multidisciplinary collaborations. These include: the Global Health Bioethics Network; the Oxford-Johns Hopkins Global Infectious Disease Ethics Collaboration (GLIDE); ANTITHESES: the Discovery Platform for Transformative Inclusivity in Ethics and Humanities Research; the Genethics Forum; and Oxford Ethics and Humanities.



Conference participants and anyone working on related topics are invited to submit a paper for a special issue of the journal Bioethics, edited by Alberto Giubilini and Andrew Moeller, on “New (Bio)technologies and human identity”.

More information and submission guidelines on the journal webpage.


If you've any quesitons, please contact: Alberto Giubilini

Supported by Medical Humanities – TORCH; Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics; Boundaries of Humanites Project at Stanford University

Medical Humanities Research HubTORCH Research Hubs