Skip to main content
Scroll For More

Toby Walsh, Matt Beard, Kate Devlin & Justine Rogers: RoboEthics

Panellists at RoboEthics at Town Hall

Stephen Hawking once claimed that AI could be the greatest threat to humanity. The tech world’s most prominent visionaries have voiced concerns around the proliferation of robots in all areas of our lives, yet we continue to hurtle towards a brave new mechanical world. Is it possible that in the future we could be looking at a self-aware artificial intelligence?

If robots become just as sentient as humans, will they be afforded the same rights? Should there be a set of immutable ethical laws around robots and AI before it’s too late and if so, whose job would it be to determine and enforce them?

Join UNSW robots and AI expert Professor Toby Walsh, researcher and digital strategist Kate Devlin, philosopher Matthew Beard and legal ethicist Justine Rogers to tackle these moral dilemmas and determine how these rapidly emerging technologies will impact our tomorrow.

I have friends working in tech companies who tell me that they would welcome more regulation, because at the moment it’s a race to the bottom and they don’t want to go there.

Toby Walsh

Don’t believe the people in tech who say, ethics is about self regulation so we don’t need laws.

Matt Beard

What’s interesting about the sex robot field, is that it’s kind of a microcosm of the tech industry in general. It’s just a bunch of white guys making products where the default user is a white guy

Kate Devlin


Listen on iTunes



Photo credit Prudence Upton.

This talk is part of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Living with 21st Century Technology.

Kate Devlin portrait

Kate Devlin

Kate Devlin is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London. Having begun her career as an archaeologist before moving into computer science, Devlin’s research is in the fields of human computer interaction (HCI) and artificial intelligence (AI). She investigates how people interact with and react to technology in order to understand how emerging and future technologies will affect us and the society in which we live. Devlin has become a driving force in the field of intimacy and technology, running the UK's first sex tech hackathon in 2016. In short, she has become the face of sex robots – quite literally in the case of one miscaptioned tabloid photograph. She was probably the first person to say "sex robots" in the House of Lords – in an official capacity, at least. Her book on the subject, Turned On, was published in 2018.

Justine Rogers portrait

Justine Rogers

Dr Justine Rogers is Deputy Director of the Law Society of NSW Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) research stream as part of the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation at UNSW Law. She is also a chief investigator in an Australian Research Council Linkage grant with the Professional Standards Councils on professionalism and professional regulation in the 21st Century. Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in Lawyers, Ethics & Justice, the core legal ethics course at UNSW Law. She completed her Doctor of Philosophy at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford, which was an ethnographic study of London barristers and pupillage. Rogers also holds a Masters in Educational Research Methodology from the University of Oxford.

Matthew Beard portriat

Matthew Beard

Matthew Beard is an Australian philosopher and ethicist, based in Sydney. He has a PhD in philosophy, with a thesis focussed on military ethics, the post-war experience of veterans and the relevance of concepts virtue and character in talking about the morality of war today. He writes regular columns for New Philosopher – one on ethical dilemmas and one answering philosophical questions from children. Beard is also the resident ethicist on Short & Curly, an award-winning podcast discussing ethics for kids, produced by the ABC. His work discusses subjects including military ethics, moral injury and PTSD, cyberwar, torture, and medical ethics in book chapters, scholarly articles, radio interviews, public opinion pieces, and at academic conferences both domestically and internationally. He’s passionate about public philosophy and communication, and discussing ethical questions in popular media outlets.

Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh is Chief Scientist of UNSW's new AI Institute. He is a strong advocate for limits to ensure AI improves our lives, having spoken at the UN, and to heads of state, parliamentary bodies, company boards and many others on this topic. This advocacy has led to him being ‘banned indefinitely’ from Russia. He was named on the international ‘Who's Who in AI’ list of influencers. His most recent book is Machines Behaving Badly: the morality of AI.

For first access to upcoming events and new ideas

Explore past events