Bright minds examine evil

In his new book Evil On Line Castlemaine philosopher Dr Dean Cocking explores how ordinary people can do evil things in the uncharted territory of cyberspace.
Co-authored by Professor Jeroen van den Hoven of the Netherlands, Evil On Line provides what is understood to be the first comprehensive analysis of evil in our new online worlds and develops a new theory of evil based on how ordinary people can go astray.
The work is about to be launched at a free community event at Bendigo’s Girton Grammar School where Dr Cocking is Honorary Thinker in Residence.
In what promises to be a uniquely thought-provoking session, the launch on Thursday September 20 will feature one of the world’s most high-profile moral philosophers – Professor Roger Crisp.
Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, Professor Crisp will also participate in the included panel Q&A session focusing on the moral fog arising from life online, and on the ways in which people may be led into evil.
He will be joined by deputy director of the Human Bioethics Centre at Monash University, Associate Professor Justin Oakley, a world-renowned moral philosopher who has completed significant teaching and research on the moral psychology of evil.
In conversation with the Midland Express Dr Cocking said our social life online was unlike the social worlds we have learned to navigate over thousands of years.
“We’ve had thousands of years to learn something about how to navigate our lives but these new ways in which we can communicate online can create a perfect storm of conditions to enable people to run amok,” he said.
The former senior research fellow at Australian National University in Canberra has taught philosophy to the military and ethics to police. He said he drew extensively on case studies to write Evil On Line, examining numerous potential online minefields including cyber-bullying, terror recruitment, shaming and value reshaping.
“It’s not an exaggeration to characterise new technologies especially social media, as a gigantic social experiment with little foresight or design for values,” the Castlemaine-based philosopher, writer and researcher said.
The free public launch of Evil On Line takes place at Girton’s Black Box Theatre from 5-6pm on Thursday September 20.

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