Conference: Moral Machines? Ethics and Politics of the Digital World 6.-8.3.2019

As our contemporary world is increasingly digitalized, the ethical, moral and political issues it encompasses require our immediate attention. Bringing together perspectives of philosophy, literature, art, and social and political sciences, the conference addresses the timely issues of the morality of machines, thinking in the digital world and the ways of controlling that world.

“Moral Machines? Ethics and Politics of the Digital World” conference examines the contemporary digital world from different perspectives. The conference is free of charge and it is held at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies as well as in Think Corner on March 6th­–8th 2019. There is also an artistic evening programme which is open to the public on Wednesday March 6th from 6pm to 9pm on Think Corner Stage. The conference is in English.

Is there such a thing as moral machine?

As our contemporary world is increasingly digitalized, the ethical, moral and political issues it encompasses require our immediate attention. Technology can no more be considered as a mere tool since it has a greater effect on both its users and the surrounding environment. This can be seen, for example, in the way we assign new tasks to our computers every day. It is needless to say that digitalization has been extremely useful in science, technology, economy and everyday life, but despite this we also need to examine our relationship with digitalization with a critical eye. The development of technology and digitalization are phenomena which shape our society comprehensively, and it is for this reason that such phenomena should be examined in an interdisciplinary context.

The conference “Moral Machines? Ethics and Politics of the Digital World” addresses the various aspects of the contemporary digital world. We are especially interested in the idea that despite everything they can do, the machines do not really think, at least not like us. So, what is thinking in the digital world? How does the digital machine “think”?

One of our aims is to bring approaches from different fields together for a lively discussion

Our main keynote speakers N. Katherine Hayles (Duke University) and Bernard Stiegler (University of Compiègne), have treated fundamental aspects of digitalization digitalization in their work respectively. Hayles has shown that for a long time, computers were built with the assumption that they imitate human thought – while in fact, the machine’s capability of non-embodied and non-conscious cognition sets it apart from everything we call thinking. For his part, Bernard Stiegler has shown how technics in general and digital technologies in particular are specific forms of memory that is externalized and made public – and that, at the same time, becomes very different from and alien to individual human consciousness. In addition to Hayles and Stiegler, the conference includes keynotes from Erich Hörl (Leuphana University Lüneburg), Maria Mäkelä (Tampere University), Frédéric Neyrat (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and François-David Sebbah (Paris Nanterre University).

The conference approaches digitalization from philosophical, theoretical and practical perspectives

The aim of the conference is to bring together researchers from different disciplines to address the ethical and political issues of the digitalizing world. The conference approaches these issues from three perspectives: thinking in the digital world, the morality of machines, and the ways of controlling the digital world. The conference pursues to answer questions such as how has digitalization been addressed by means of philosophy literature, art, and social and political sciences.

Conference organizers

Susanna Lindberg, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies 

Hanna-Riikka Roine, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies 

The conference has received funding from the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (Tieteellisten seurain valtuuskunta), Institut Français de Finlande (Ranskan instituutti) and the project Creative Adaptation to Wicked Socio-environmental Disruptions (WISE; Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland in Tampere University).

The conference is held in the Common Room of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (Fabianinkatu 24, 3rd floor) as well as in Think Corner (Yliopistonkatu 4) March 6th–8th 2019. The conference is free of charge.


For further information about the conference, feel free to contact the organizers Susanna Lindberg ( and Hanna-Riikka Roine (

Conference website

Link to event information in the University of Helsinki events calendar


Moral Machines?

Susanna Lindberg and Hanna-Riikka Roine are the conference organizers and Core Fel­lows at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies.

Susanna Lindberg is a docent of theoretical philosophy at the University of Helsinki. She specializes in German idealism as well as in contemporary continental philosophy. In her current research, Lindberg examines  the role of technology in the human being's self-constitution. She analyzes the ways in which human subjectivity is transformed by contemporary technologies while taking into account the aspects of human life that cannot be captured by technology.

Lindberg will give a presentation with the title “Just Machines” on Wednesday March 6th as part of Session 2: What Do Algorithms Make of Us? starting at 11 am in Think Corner’s Think Lounge.

Hanna-Riikka Roine completed her Ph.D. at the University of Tampere in 2016. She specializes in contemporary narrative theory, game and digital media studies, and research on modern fan cultures. In her current research, Roine combines narratology with research on games, digital media, and fan cultures. This provides an innovative way to analyze both the poetics and the collaborative aspects of new creative practices in order to examine the role of narrative in art after the digital turn.

Roine will give a presentation, together with Laura Piippo (University of Jyväskylä), with the title “Authorship vs. Assemblage in Computational Media” on Wednesday March 6th as part of Session 4: Manipulation in Web Search and Social Media starting at 3 pm in HCAS Common Room.

See full programme here.