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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

2018 International Exploratory Workshop: From Human to Posthuman? Ethical Inquiry

Photo by Siyan Ren on Unsplash

Date: Jan 29-31, 2018

Where? Collegium Helveticum, Schmelzbergstrasse 25, 8092 Zürich

Following our 2016 workshop on “Enhancement & Ethics in the Movies of Andrew Niccol”, this international workshop brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars (from philosophy, bioethics, literature, media and/or film studies) to meet at the University of Zurich to discuss the moral and prudential implications of technologies that have the potential to turn humans into different kinds of being.

Today’s cybernetic and genetic technologies are forerunners of tomorrow’s transformative technologies. We plan to expand the academic and popular reach of the workshop by considering transformation in the context of science fiction. To do so we will encourage the analysis of the use of imagery found in different stories such as for instance in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the Borg in Star Trek, Cybermen in Dr Who, Zombies in The Walking Dead, AI in Her, Ex Machina, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc.

The workshop will use the imagery of these stories as a way to explore the ethical issues regarding radical enhancement (enhancing to a point as to becoming something ontologically different), but also issues in the prudential rationality of significant change.

A feature of these transformations is that the original individual survives as a different kind of being. He or she is not killed and replaced by another individual that may resemble him or her in significant ways. One philosophical debate for which the issue of transformation assumes great importance is the debate about human enhancement. With a few exceptions, the transformations of science fiction seem to make their subjects worse off. We don’t envy humans who have become posthumans, cybermen or zombies. A group of thinkers who call themselves transhumanists are enthusiastic about transformations that might turn humans into posthumans, beings with cognitive and physical capacities that radically exceed those of humans. We hope to use science fiction as a source of case studies to consider the morality or prudential rationality of these seemingly positive changes. 

Preliminary Program & Flyer


  • Prof. Nick Agar (Philosophy, University of Wellington)
  • Prof. Michael Hauskeller (Philosophy, University of Liverpool)
  • Marcello Ienca (Bioethics, ETHZ) 
  • Dr. Nicole Vincent (Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
  • Dr. Johann Roduit (Bioethics, University of Zurich)
  • Dr. Simon Spiegel (Film Studies, University of Zurich)
  • Dr. Vincent Menuz (Bioethics, University of Zurich)
  • Prof. Maurizio Caon (Computer Science, NeoHumanitas/University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland)
  • Prof. Bengt Kayser (Sport Science, University of Lausanne)
  • Dr. Thomas Philbeck (Philosophy, WEF, Geneva)
  • Dr. David Doat (Bioethics, Lille Catholic University, France)
  • Prof. Lars Schmeink (Media, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg)
  • Prof. Effy Vayena (Bioethics, ETHZ)
  • Prof. Gerry Canavan (Literature, Marquette University)
  • Dr. Michele Loi (Philosophy, University of Zurich)
  • Johannes Katsarov (Center for Ethics, University of Zurich)
  • Johnny McDonald (Philosophy, University of Wellington)
  • Dr. Vanessa Rampton (Philosophy, ETHZ)


Please register by email to Johann Roduit before January 10, 2018 with name, title and affiliation. Limited number of participants. There is no registration fee.

Presentation and Film Screening of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

On Jan 29, 2018 at 19:30, there will be a screening of 2001: a space odyssey with an introduction by Dr. Simon Spiegel and a presentation of the 502001.CH initiative by Dr. Johann Roduit, for the 50th anniversary of the movie.


This international workshop is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation