Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Code PHIL312
Coordinator Professor BF Dainton
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2023-24 Level 6 FHEQ Second Semester 15


To provide an introduction to debates concerning the philosophical implications of foreseeable future technological innovations. To examine the relevance of metaphysical and ethical considerations to future technological and scientific developments.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Students will be able to identify the main issues and positions in contemporary philosophical discussions of issues such as human enhancement, existential risks, teleportation, time travel, the technological singularity, the simulation argument, the feasibility and desirability of uploading into virtual worlds.

(LO2) Students will be able to explain the main strengths and weaknesses of these positions.

(LO3) Students will be able to explain the relevance of metaphysical and ethical considerations to debates concerning these issues. 

(LO4) Students will be able to think more creatively about philosophical issues.

(LO5) Students will be able to structure philosophical arguments relating issues raised by future technological developments.

(LO6) Students will be able to articulate and defend specific positions in current philosophical debates concerning likely future developments in science and technology.

(LO7) Students will be able to write coherently and rigorously about the philosophical issues raised by future technological developments.

(S1) Students will develop their skills in thinking critically, analysing problems and analysing and assessing arguments.

(S2) Students will develop their willingness critically to evaluate and reflect upon arguments, beliefs, proposals and values, both their own and those of others.

(S3) Students will enhance their capacity to participate, in a dispassionate and respectful manner, in debates about controversial and profound matters.

(S4) Students will enhance their ability to identify the issues with truly underlie debates.

(S5) Students will develop their ability to marshal arguments, and present them orally and in writing.

(S6) Students will develop and enhance their ability to work effectively and independently.

(S7) Students will enhance their abilities in reading and understanding texts and in comprehending abstract material.

(S8) Students will develop their skills in making appropriate use of information technology, information on the World Wide Web and reference works and databases relevant to the discipline.



The topics we will be addressing will include the following: Existential Risks (to the species - what are they, what have philosophers to offer). Fermi’s Paradox. Human Enhancement: what is it? How likely is it? Is it ethical? The Singularity: the prospects and perils of superintelligence Simulation Argument: how likely is it that we're living in a computer simulation? Virtual Worlds: how should we think of them? Is uploading into them viable? Are virtual lives less desirable or less 'real' than real ones? Immortality: something to be desired, if it could be achieved? Teleportation: survivable? Time Travel: possible? Many Worlds: why take them seriously? How do they impact on ethics? Aliens: the Fermi paradox.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

"standard" delivery is campus-based. Hybrid/on-line variants are given below.

Teaching Method 1 - Mini Lecture videos
Description: 11 x 1 hour lectures.
Lectures are tutor-led activities, offering a map of the syllabus and a framework for independent enquiry-led research. Students will have the opportunity to engage actively with lecture material through online discussion and drop-in seminar participation.

Attendance Recorded: No

Teaching Method 2 - Seminar
Description: 11 x 1 hour seminars.
Seminars are formative spaces of applied and enquiry-led learning based on pre-set readings and facilitated by the tutor. Seminars thus offer opportunities for students to respond to tutor- and peer-set questions, deepen understanding, apply ideas, develop arguments and build confidence through group discussion.

Attendance Recorded: Yes

The majority of teaching will be delivered face to face on campus. Online delivery will be used to c omplement the on campus delivery and where technology affords a better learning experience.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 11


Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 128


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Take home exam, 2 questions 2,000 words in total (approx. 1,000 words per question).  24    60       
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Essay There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment.    30       
A short in-class presentation, focused on the weekly seminar text. There is a resit opportunity.    10       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.