The Digital and Our Social Natures  

Roundtable 1: 9:30 am-12pm
Wednesday 19 February 2020
Digital Learning Space, Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)


This talk opens with a conjecture about what philosophy can bring to debates about how humans will inhabit the digital age. There are too many overconfident forecasts about what the digital future offers us as social beings. Philosophers can bring the attitude of Socrates who said he knew nothing but at least knew that. Philosophers should be like Socrates challenging the overconfident forecasts of economists and technologists. When philosophers perform this service we should avoid our own variety of overconfidence that comes from placing too much credence on what we take to be the most rationally coercive argument. I offer my proposals as evidence that should boost your credence in certain ways to be social in the digital age. 

The particular debate I focus on concerns the role of humans in the economies of the future. We frequently hear that human workers face a threat from more efficient machines. What can we offer to compensate for the decline in the economic value of our efforts? I argue for a significant expansion of the category of social work to protect against the divisive influences of social media and its filter bubbles. It may be essential for the survival of diverse liberal democracies.


Dr. Alex Bevan (Communication and Arts, UQ)

Associate Professor Nic Carah (Communication and Arts, UQ)

Associate Professor Marguerite La Caze (Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, UQ)

Professor Tom O’Regan (Communication and Arts, UQ)


Open Q&A and Discussion (1 hour)

Professor Nicholas Agar is a New Zealand philosopher at Victoria University of Wellington. He has written books on the ethics of human enhancement, including Liberal Eugenics (Blackwell, 2004) and Humanity’s End (MIT Press, 2010), and on the meaning of technological progress – The Sceptical Optimist (Oxford University Press, 2015). His latest book, How to be Human in the Digital Economy (MIT Press, 2019), addresses the human consequences of the digital revolution.  


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Platform Media: Algorithms, Accountability and Design is a Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences initiative that brings together researchers in the School of Communication and Arts and the T.C. Beirne Law School.  

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Digital Learning Space, Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)