Professor Robert Sparrow

B.A. (Hons) (Melbourne). PhD. (A.N.U.)

Australian Research Council “Future Fellow”, 2010-15.

At the highest level of description my research interests are bioethics, political philosophy and applied ethics; I am interested in philosophical arguments with real-world implications. A list of my publications is included below, while a detailed account of the areas of my current research may be found here.


Refereed Journal Articles

Sparrow, R. 2017. Robots, rape, and representation. International Journal of Social Robotics. Published Online First, June 1, 2017, as doi: 10.1007/s12369-017-0413-z.

Sparrow, R. and Howard, M. When human beings are like drunk robots: driverless vehicles, ethics, and the future of transport. ​​Transportation Research Part C. Published Online First, May 9, 2017, as doi: 10.1016/j.trc.2017.04.014.

Hutchison, K. and Sparrow, R. 2017. Ethics and the cardiac pacemaker: More than just end of life issues. Europace Published Online First, April 6, 2017, as doi:10.1093/europace/eux019.

Sparrow, R. and Lucas, G. Jr. 2016. When Robots Rule the Waves? Naval War College Review 69(4): 49-78.

Hutchison, K. and Sparrow, R. 2016. “What pacemakers can teach us about the ethics of maintaining artificial organs,” Hastings Center Report 46 (6): 14-24. DOI: 10.1002/hast.644.

Sparrow, R. 2016. Robots and respect: Assessing the case against Autonomous Weapon Systems. Ethics and International Affairs 30(1): 93-116. doi:10.1017/S0892679415000647.

Sparrow, R. 2015. Robots in aged care: A dystopian future? AI and Society Published Online First, November 10, 2015, as doi: 10.1007/s00146-015-0625-4.

Sparrow, R. 2015. If people were movies? Free speech and free association. The Journal of Political Philosophy Published Online First, November 6, 2015, as doi: 10.1111/jopp.12084.

Sparrow, R., Harrison, R., Oakley, J., and Keogh, B. 2015. Playing for fun, training for war: Can popular claims about recreational video gaming and military simulations be reconciled? Games and Culture. Published Online First, November 26, 2015, as DOI: 10.1177/1555412015615025.

Sparrow, R. 2015. Twenty seconds to comply: Autonomous Weapon Systems and the recognition of surrender. International Law Studies 91: 699-728.

Sparrow, R, 2015. Martial and moral courage in tele-operated warfare: A commentary on Kirkpatrick. The Journal of Military Ethics Published Online First, December 24, 2015, as doi: 10.1080/15027570.2015.1109946.

Sparrow, R. 2015. Imposing genetic diversity. American Journal of Bioethics 15(6): 2–10. DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2015.1028658.

Sparrow, R. 2015. Enhancement and Obsolescence: Avoiding an “Enhanced Rat Race. The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 25(3): 231–260, September. This paper was the “Editor’s Pick” in this issue.

Sparrow, R. 2014. Reproductive technologies, risk, enhancement, and the value of genetic relatedness. Journal of Medical Ethics 40:741-743. Published Online First, March 6 2014, as doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101807.

Sparrow, R. 2014. Egalitarianism and moral bioenhancement. American Journal of Bioethics 14 (4): 20-28.

Sparrow, R. 2014. Better living through chemistry? A reply to Savulescu and Persson on “moral enhancementJournal of Applied Philosophy 31 (1): 23–32. Published Online First August 27, 2013 as 10.1111/japp.12038.

Sparrow, R. 2013. Gender eugenics? The ethics of PGD for intersex conditions. American Journal of Bioethics 13 (10): 29-38. DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2013.828115.

Sparrow, R. 2013. Sexism and human enhancement. Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (12): 732-735. Published Online First August 23, 2013 as 10.1136/medethics-2012-101143.

Savulescu, J. & Sparrow, R. 2013. Making better babies: Pros and cons. Monash Bioethics Review 31 (1): 36-59.

Sparrow, R. 2013. In vitro eugenics. Journal of Medical Ethics. Online First, published on April 4, 2013. DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2012-101200. This paper was chosen to be the “feature article” in a special issue devoted to stem-cell-derived gametes.

Sparrow, R. 2013. Queerin’ the PGD clinic: human enhancement and the future of bodily diversity. Journal of Medical Humanities. 34(2): 177-196. Published Online First March 10, 2013. DOI: 10.1007/s10912-013-9223-y.

Sparrow, R. 2012. A child’s right to a decent future? Regulating human genetic enhancement in multicultural societies. Asian Bioethics Review 4 (4): 355–373.

Sparrow, R. 2012. The perils of post-persons. Journal of Medical Ethics. Online First, published on November 5, 2012. DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2012-100834).

Sparrow, R. 2012. Human enhancement and sexual dimorphism. Bioethics 26 (9): 464–475. Online first, 2011. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2011.01884.x.

Sparrow, R. 2012. Orphaned at conception: The uncanny offspring of embryos,” Bioethics 26 (4): 173–181, May. Published Online first in 2010. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-8519.2010.01848.x

Sparrow, R. 2012. The dead donor rule and means-end reasoning: A reply to Napier.Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21(1):141-146, January.

Sparrow, R. 2012. ‘Just say no’ to drones. IEEE Technology and Society 31 (1): 56-63. DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2012.2185275.

Sparrow, R. 2011. Fear of a female planet: How John Harris came to endorse eugenic social engineering. Journal of Medical Ethics 38: 4-7. DOI: 10.1136/jme.2011.045021.

Sparrow, R. 2011. Harris, harmed states, and sexed bodies. Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (5): 276-279. DOI: 10.1136/jme.2010.039982. This paper was made available for open access as the “Editor’s choice” in this issue.

Sparrow, R. 2011. A not-so-new eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on human enhancement. Hastings Center Report 41 (1): 32-42. This paper was selected for simultaneous publication in Asian Bioethics Review 2(4), 2010.

Sparrow, R. 2010. Better than men? Sex and the therapy/enhancement distinction. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 20 (2): 115-144.

Sparrow, R. 2010. Should human beings have sex? Sexual dimorphism and human enhancement. American Journal of Bioethics 10 (7): 3-12. DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2010.489409. This paper was the topic of nine Open Peer Commentaries.

Sparrow, R. 2010. Liberalism and eugenics.Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (3): 499-517. DOI: 10.1080/00048402.2010.484464.

Sparrow, R. 2010. Implants and ethnocide: Learning from the cochlear implant controversy. Disability and Society 25 (4): 455-466. Online First, DOI: 10.1080/09687591003755849.

Sparrow, R. & Cram, D. 2010. Saviour embryos? Preimplantation genetic diagnosis as a therapeutic technology. Reproductive BioMedicine Online. 20 (5): 667-674.

Sparrow, R., and Gardiner, D. 2010. Not dead yet: Controlled non-heart beating organ donation, consent, and the dead donor rule. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19(1): 17-26, January.

Sparrow, R. 2009. Xenotransplantation, consent, and international justice. Developing World Bioethics 9(3): 119-27, December.

Sparrow, R. 2009. Therapeutic cloning and reproductive liberty. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 34(2): 102-18, April.

Sparrow, R. 2009. The social impacts of nanotechnology: an ethical and political analysis. The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6(1): 13-23, January.

Sparrow, R. 2009. Predators or plowshares? Arms control of robotic weapons. IEEE Technology and Society 28(1): 25-29, Spring.

Sparrow, R. 2009. Building a better warbot: Ethical issues in the design of unmanned systems for military applications. Science and Engineering Ethics 15(2):169–187, June.

Sparrow, R. 2008. Talkin’ ’bout a (nanotechnological) revolution. IEEE Technology and Society 27(2): 37-43, June.

Sparrow, R. 2008. Is it ‘every man’s right to have babies if he wants them’? Male pregnancy and the limits of reproductive liberty. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 18(3): 275–299, September.

Sparrow, R., and Russell, W. 2008. The case for regulating intragenic GMOs. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 21(2): 153-181, April.

Sparrow, R. 2007. Procreative beneficence, obligation, and eugenics. Genomics, Society and Policy 3(3): 43-59, December.

Sparrow, R. 2007. Revolutionary and familiar, inevitable and precarious: Rhetorical contradictions in enthusiasm for nanotechnology. NanoEthics 1(1): 57-68, March.

Sparrow, R. 2007. Killer robots. Journal of Applied Philosophy 24(1): 62-77, March.

Sparrow, R., and Sparrow, L. 2006. In the hands of machines? The future of aged care. Minds and Machines 16: 141-161, May.

Sparrow, R. 2006. ‘Trust us… we’re doctors’: Science, media, and ethics in the Hwang stem cell controversy. Journal of Communication Research 43(1): 5-24.

Sparrow, R. 2006. Right of the living dead? Consent to experimental surgery in the event of cortical death. Journal of Medical Ethics 32(10): 601-605, October.

Sparrow, R. 2006. Cloning, parenthood, and genetic relatedness. Bioethics 20(6): 308-318.

Sparrow, R. 2005. ‘Hands up who wants to die?’: Primoratz on responsibility and civilian immunity in wartime. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8(3): 299-319, June.

Sparrow, R. 2005. Defending Deaf culture: The case of cochlear implants. The Journal of Political Philosophy 13(2): 135-152, June.

Sparrow, R. 2004. The Turing triage test. Ethics and Information Technology 6(4): 203-213.

Sparrow, R. 2002. The march of the robot dogs. Ethics and Information Technology 4(4): 305-318.

Sparrow, R. 2002. Talking sense about political correctness. Journal of Australian Studies 73: 119-133.

Sparrow, R., and Goodin, R. E. 2001. The competition of ideas: Market or garden? Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 4(2): 45-58.

Sparrow, R. 2000. History and collective responsibility. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78(3): 346-359, September.

Sparrow, R. 1999. The ethics of terraforming. Environmental Ethics 21(3): 227-245.

Book Chapters

Sparrow, R. 2016. Human enhancement for whom? In Steve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, C. A. J. Coady, Alberto Giubilini, and Sagar Sanyal (eds.) The Ethics of Human Enhancement: Understanding the Debate. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 127-142.

Sparrow, R. 2015. Drones, courage, and military culture. In George R. Lucas, Jr. (ed) Routledge Handbook of Military Ethics. Oxford: Routledge, forthcoming.

Sparrow, R. 2014. Ethics, eugenics, and politics. In Akira Akayabashi (ed) The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 139-153.

Sparrow, R. 2014. What we can – and can’t — learn about the ethics of enhancement by thinking about sport. In Akira Akayabashi (ed) The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 218-223.

Sparrow, R. 2014. (Im)Moral technology? Thought experiments and the future of “mind control”. In Akira Akayabashi (ed) The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 113-119.

Sparrow, R. 2014. The real force of “procreative beneficence”. In Akira Akayabashi (ed) The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 183-192.

Simpson, R. and Sparrow, R. 2014. “Nanotechnologically enhanced combat systems: The downside of invulnerability“. In B. Gordijn and A.M. Cutter (eds.), In Pursuit of Nanoethics, The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology 10, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-6817-1_2, Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media, 89-103.

Sparrow, R. 2013. War without virtue? In Bradley Jay Strawser (ed) Killing By Remote Control. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 84-105.

Sparrow, R. 2012. Cloning, parenthood, and genetic relatedness. In Stephen Holland (ed) Arguing About Bioethics. London and New York: Routledge, 163-175 [republished paper].

Sparrow, R. 2012. Can machines be people? Reflections on the Turing triage test. In Patrick Lin, Keith Abney, and George Bekey (eds) Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 301-315.

Sparrow, R. 2011. Robotic weapons and the future of war. In Jessica Wolfendale and Paolo Tripodi (eds) New Wars and New Soldiers: Military Ethics in the Contemporary World. Surrey, UK & Burlington, VA: Ashgate, 117-133.

Sparrow, R. 2010. The ethical challenges of military robots. In G. Dabringer (eds) Ethical and Legal Aspects of Unmanned Systems: Interviews, Vienna, Austria: katholiches Militärseelsorge Österreich.

Sparrow, R. 2010. The slippery nature of nano-enthusiasm. In Fern Wickson and Kamilla Kjolberg (eds), Nano Meets Macro: Social Perspectives on Nanoscale Sciences and Technologies. Singapore: Pan Stanford Publishing, 123-138.

Sparrow, R. 2008. Genes, identity, and the expressivist critique. In Loane Skene and Janna Thompson (eds), The Sorting Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 111-132.

Sparrow, R. 2008. Killer robots. In Igor Primoratz and Tony Coady (eds.), Military Ethics. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 527-542. [republished paper]

Sparrow, R. 2008. Anarchism since 1992. In Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit and Thomas Pogge (ed.), Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, 2nd edn, Volume One, Oxford: Blackwell, 282-284.

Sparrow, R. 2008. For the union makes us strong: Anarchism and patriotism. In Alexander Pavlovic and Igor Primoratz (eds), Patriotism: Philosophical and Political Perspectives, Ashgate, 201-217.

Sparrow, R. 2007. Negotiating the nanodivides. In Graeme Hodge, Diana Bowman and Karinne Ludlow (eds), New Global Frontiers in Regulation: The Age of Nanotechnology, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 87-107.

Sparrow, R. 2007. ‘Barbarians at the gates’: The moral costs of political community. In Igor Primoratz (ed.), Politics and Morality, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 170-188.

Sparrow, R. 2004. Censorship and freedom of speech. In Healy, J. (ed), Censorship and Free Speech, Issues in Society Series, Vol. 207. Thirroul, NSW: The Spinney Press, 1-4.

Sparrow, R. 2001. Anarchist politics and direct action. In Ahonen, T., Termonen, M., Tirkkonen, T. & Vehaluoto, U. (eds) Väärin ajateltua: anarckistisia puheenvuoroja herruudettmmasta yhteiskunnasta, Kopijyvä, Jyväskykä: Kampus Kustannus, 163-175. Trans, in Finnish.


Sparrow, R. 2014. Unfit for the future: The need for moral enhancement, by Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92(2): 404-407.

Sparrow, R. 2012. Book review: Beyond humanity? The ethics of biomedical enhancement, by Allen Buchanan. Journal of Applied Philosophy 29 (2):160-162. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5930.2011.00551.x.


Altmann, J., Asaro, P., Sharkey, N., & Sparrow, R.J., 2013. Armed military robots. Ethics and Information Technology 15 (2):73-76.

Encyclopedia Entries

Sparrow, R. 2014. Drones. In Mitcham, Carl (ed.) Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, Second Edition. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA (forthcoming).

Sparrow, R. 2014. Androids. In Mitcham, Carl (ed.) Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, Second Edition. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA (forthcoming).

Sparrow, R. 2014. Robots. In Mitcham, Carl (ed.) Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, Second Edition. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, (forthcoming).

Sparrow, R. 2013. Political correctness. In LaFollette, Hugh (ed.) International Encyclopedia of Ethics Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons. Published Online, 1 Feb 2013, DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee589

Sparrow, R. 2013. Genetic enhancement technologies. In Maloy, Stanley and Hughes, Kelly (eds.) Brenner’s Encyclopedia of Genetics, Second Edition. Oxford: Academic Press.

Sparrow, R. 2013. Anarchism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online (in progress)

Sparrow, R. 2005. Androids. In Mitcham, Carl (ed.) Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 68-69.

Sparrow, R. 2005. Robots. In Mitcham, Carl (ed.) Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 1654-1656.

Papers in Refereed Conference Proceedings

Sparrow, R. 2002. Liberal freedoms and cultural goods. Proceedings of the 2002 Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics Conference. Brisbane, Australia.


Sparrow, R. 2010. Why bioethicists still need to think more about sex … . American Journal of Bioethics 10 (7): W1-W3. DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2010.489410

Papers in Conference Proceedings

Sparrow, R. 2002. Culture and choice: Two models of culture in the cochlear implant debate, Proceedings of the 2nd Victorian State Deaf Conference, Different Views…One vision. May the 4th and 5th, Melbourne, Victorian Council of Deaf People, 51-72.

Sparrow, R. 2001. Artificial intelligences, embodiment and the ‘Turing triage test’. In Ruth F. Chadwick, Lucas Introna and Antonio Marturano, (ed.), Proceedings of the Computer Ethics: Philosophical Enquiry 2001 Conference: IT and the Body, 14-16 December, Lancaster University, Lancaster, U.K., 222-235.

Publications in popular press

Sparrow, R. 2013. Lethal autonomous robots must be stopped in their tracks. The Conversation, June 4.

Sparrow, R. 2010. Sex selection in the context of foetal reduction: Analogies and intuitions. Feature article in CENTRES Quarterly 4 (Reproductive Ethics, December 2010).

Sparrow, R. 2008. The perils and promise of nanotechnology. Materials Australia, August: 49.

Sparrow, R. 2008. The sins of science. Cosmos Online. 13 March

Sparrow, R. 2008. Hypocrisy about nanotechnology is a worrying sign. Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project,

Sparrow, R. 2003. Borders, states, freedom and justice. Arena Magazine (66): 25-31.

Sparrow, R. 2003. Response to critics. Arena Magazine (67): 35.

Sparrow, R. 2002. Better off Deaf? Res Publica 11(1): 11-16.