Bringing together local and international philosophers and thinkers, secondary school students, teachers, academics and interested members of the public, the conference will explore how technological development will shape our understanding of who and what we are, and how we should live, in the 21st century.

The day will run from 9:00am until 4:30pm and is an opportunity to hear from internationally-renowned thinkers and to enjoy debate and discussion with other students, teachers and thinkers from across Victoria.

Professor Susan Wolf

Professor of Philosophy

Professor Susan Wolf is the Edna J Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

She has held previous positions at Harvard, the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

Her area of specialisation is ethics and her interests include moral psychology, value theory and normative ethics.

She is the author of five books and numerous articles, including her widely regarded essay ‘Moral Saints.’

Her essay ‘Meaning in Life’ is included on the current VCE Philosophy prescribed text list.

ABSTRACT: Meaning in Life and the Objectivity of Value
Living a meaningful life is different from living a happy one, but what it means for a life to be meaningful is a matter of debate. I believe (and shall try to convince you) that meaning comes from engaging in projects of worth – activities that you love and that are worthy of love. This implies that meaning has both a subjective and an objective aspect, related in appropriate ways.

Professor Julian Savulescu

Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics

Professor Savulescu is the is Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at Oxford, a Fellow of St Cross College and the Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

He is also the Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Monash University, the former editor and current board member of of the Journal of Medical Ethics and the head of the Melbourne-Oxford Stem Cell Collaboration, which is devoted to examining the ethical implications of cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

Together with Ingmar Persson, he is the author of Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement.

His research interests include: the ethics of genetics, research ethics, new forms of reproduction, such as cloning and assisted reproduction, medical ethics and sports ethics.

ABSTRACT: Moral Machines

A famous dilemma in philosophy asks whether, if you were on an out of control train speeding towards 5 people on the railway line, you should pull a lever to switch to another track where there is only 1 person. Autonomous cars have brought this question, or questions like it, into reality. Faced with a group of pedestrians stepping out into the road, should the car swerve and hit a single cyclist instead? A recent global survey on how cars should balance lives, showed some general preferences: to prioritise human over animal lives, to save more rather than fewer lives, and to save the young over the old. Some were culture-specific. People from southern countries, for example, tended to prioritise the lives of females and the physically fit. Does it matter what the people think when we decide how to programme cars? How should we decide what moral choices machines should make?

Carley Tonoli

Philosophy PhD

Carley Tonoli is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, based in the Philosophy Program.

Her research focuses on the ethics of emerging technologies, and her current work looks at emerging military technologies, their ethical implications, and potential consequences for humanity and the future of war. Carley’s research is informed by her previous work and studies in the fields of applied ethics, IT, journalism, and communications.

Throughout the past decade, Carley has earned a Bachelor of Communications (PR and Journalism) and a Masters degree in Professional and Applied Ethics. During this time she has also worked for a number of non-profit, government, and charitable organisations in communications, media, and research roles.

ABSTRACT: Future War: Faceless Warriors and Empty Battlefields

The hardest choices require the strongest wills. Avengers: Infinity Wars

Theatres of war are always radically changed by the introduction of new technologies—from guns, tanks and planes, to precision guided missiles, drones, and cyber warfare. Emerging military technologies currently in development are set to transform the battlefields of the future into human-less and humane-less arenas, dominated by robots, autonomous weapons, artificial intelligence, and augmented soldiers. Before we venture further into this novel technological territory, it is vital that we reflect on the nature and ethical principles of war, and how these emerging technologies may erode many of the democratic values we fight to uphold. In this presentation, I will sketch a picture of what future, technologically driven war is expected to look like. Based on this picture, I will highlight a number of ethical, legal, and political issues we must address if we are to embrace these technologies. Is it right for an algorithm to decide to take a life? Who becomes the target when there are no longer live battlefields with opposing armies full of soldiers? Without a human face, does war primarily become an economic battle, where justice and righteousness are at risk of being overcome by wealth of nations?

Carley enjoys applying her knowledge and skills in pursuit of social justice, and community welfare initiatives.

The Philosophy Club

The Philosophy Club believes that critical engagement with ideas is vital for democratic citizenship.

The Philosophy Club partners with schools to build a culture of enquiry, argument, reflection and metacognition. It runs prize-winning workshops for primary and secondary students, as well as highly-regarded PD programs that provide teachers with practical tools to extend students’ thinking. Using the tools of collaborative dialogue, the club help both students and teachers develop a sophisticated range of dispositions and skills that are foundational for their success as learners, as active citizens, and as thoughtful individuals.

Ellen Broad


Ellen returned to Australia from the UK in late 2016, where she was Head of Policy for the Open Data Institute (ODI), an international non-profit founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt. While in the UK Ellen was also ministerial adviser on data to senior UK cabinet minister Elisabeth Truss. She has held roles as Manager of Digital Policy and Projects for the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (Netherlands) and Executive Officer for the Australian Digital Alliance, and is currently Head of Technical Delivery, Consumer Data Standards for CSIRO's Data61. She is an independent consultant on data sharing, open data and AI ethics, and a member of the Australian government's Data Advisory Council. She is the author of Made by Humans: the AI Condition (Melbourne University Publishing, 2018) and has written about data for publications including The Guardian, New Scientist and Griffith Review. A board game about data she created with Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute, is being played in 19 countries.

ABSTRACT: Rousing the weary giants of flesh and steel
Twenty five years ago John Perry Barlow launched his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, shunning government intervention into life online. How has it matured with age? What challenges confront us today as our offline and online lives blend together? Ellen examines recent developments in AI and automation, emerging social contracts in cyberspace and considers the society we want to shape for the future.

Dr Eliza Goddard

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Eliza Goddard is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), Ethics, Policy and Public Engagement theme, at the University of New South Wales.

Eliza’s research focusses on the social and ethical implications of emerging health technologies. Awarded in 2015, her PhD in philosophy explored questions of threats to personal identity from neural implants. Her current research is concerned with the impacts of these technologies for understandings of disability and enhancement, with attention to issues of identity, autonomy and embodiment.

Her publications, including on prosthetics, identity and disability, appear in journals, Neuroethics, American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience and Disability and Rehabilitation Technology, often as interdisciplinary collaborations involving scientists and engineers.

ABSTRACT: Technology and Identity: Ethical grounds for innovation in emerging health technologies

Innovations in health technologies improve the well-being of individuals, they may also present challenges to both individual user, and group, identity. How do technologies shape human identity? And, how do assumptions about disability inform the choice and design of emerging health technologies? In this presentation, through examples drawn from medical prosthetics and devices, I explore themes of identity, justice and disability, as well as the possibility for emerging health technologies to both address user needs and positively challenge assumptions about disability.

Inaugural Preshil Philosophy Writing Prize


So much of our daily life is informed by technology. From the time we get up in the morning until when we go to bed at night we have literally dozens, if not hundreds, of encounters with technology.  It not only intersects with our private lives, it shapes the world we live in.  But is technology improving or diminishing the quality of our lives? Is it making us better – both as individuals and as a society – or is it eroding our very humanity?

The Inaugural Preshil Philosophy Writing Prize invites students in Years 11 and 12 to employ their skills of philosophical reasoning to explore these questions.  The angle you wish to take is up to you, however, your writing should be focused, eloquent, well supported and carefully argued.

Submission deadline is Friday, 5 July. The winner will be announced on 21 July at the Future Thinking Conference and awarded a prize of $500 cash.

  • 1000-1500 Words
  • All submissions must be the original work of the author. Any work that is not the author’s own (both direct quotations and ideas) should be acknowledged explicitly, either in citation or footnotes.
  • Work should be presented in essay or dialogue form. Writing is to be formatted using Times 12 font and 1.5 spacing.
  • Essays should be prefaced by a cover sheet that includes the essay title, the student’s full name, year level and school.
  • The winner will be decided by a panel. No correspondence regarding the awarding of the prize will be entered into.
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