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Keynote Presentation

On Monday, June 27th join us for our Keynote Address from Dr. Robert Sparrow.

Professor Robert Sparrow

BA (Hons) (Melb.), PhD (A.N.U.)
Rob Sparrow is a Professor in the Philosophy Program, and an Associate Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making and Society at Monash University, where he works on ethical issues raised by new technologies. He has been an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and a Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Visiting Fellow. He has also held visiting fellowships at: the CUHK Centre for Bioethics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Carnegie Mellon; and, the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore. He has published widely, in both academic journals and the popular press, on the ethics of robotics and AI. He has served as co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and was one of the founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.




Realising the potential of agricultural robotics and AI: The ethical challenges

Recent advances in AI and robotics may dramatically transform agriculture by greatly expanding the number of contexts in which the techniques of precision agriculture may be applied. Inevitably, this next agricultural revolution will generate profound ethical issues: opportunities as well as risks. Clever applications of AI and robotics may allow agriculture to be more sustainable by facilitating more precise applications of water, fertilisers, and herbicides. Robots may take some of the drudgery out of agriculture and open new economic opportunities for farmers by reducing labour costs. As well as these environmental and economic impacts, the applications of AI and robotics in agriculture will have political, social, cultural, and security implications that have received little attention in the larger literature on these technologies. In particular, they may dramatically alter the nature and number of jobs in the agricultural sector, shift patterns of migrant labour, challenge the “gendering” of agricultural labour, reconfigure the relationship between rural and urban populations, impact on the relationship between farmers and agribusiness, expose farmers to the risk of cyber-attack, reshape consumer expectations in relationship to food, and radically transform our relationship to the natural world. In order to realise the potential of AI and robotics in agriculture, it will be vital to identify and address social issues and ethical concerns early on.