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Abstract: The question concerning the moral status of others is typically decided on the basis of pre-existing psychological properties. I contest this standard operating procedure by identifying three seemingly intractable philosophical problems with the properties approach that become evident in the face or the faceplate of robots, artificial intelligence, and other artifacts. In an effort to respond to these problems, I propose an alternative model for defining and deciding moral status that is more empirical grounded and less speculative in its formulation. This alternative shifts the emphasis from internal properties of the entity to extrinsic social relationships. This relational turn, then, provides a way to approach and conceptualize a techno-ethics that can scale to the unique opportunities and challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

Bio: David J. Gunkel (PhD) is an award-winning educator, scholar and author, specializing in ethics of emerging technology. Formally educated in philosophy and media studies, his teaching and research synthesize the hype of high-technology with the rigor and insight of contemporary critical analysis. He is the author of over 80 scholarly journal articles and book chapters, has published 12 influential books, lectured and delivered award-winning papers throughout North and South America and Europe, is the managing editor and co-founder of the International Journal of Žižek Studies and co-editor of the Indiana University Press series in Digital Game Studies. He currently holds the position of Professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University (USA), and his teaching has been recognized with numerous awards, including NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the prestigious Presidential Teaching Professorship.