Zacharus Gudmunsen


I am a fourth year PhD candidate supervised by Rob Lawlor and Graham Bex-Priestley. My Phd thesis focuses on AI ethics, specifically machine ethics.

My research focuses on evolutionary approaches to designing artificial moral agents. Human moral judgements are the result of an evolutionary capacity – just as we evolved to see, co-operate and talk, we evolved to be aware of and pursue solutions to moral problems. I defend the idea that anyone wanting to design an artificial moral agent should be informed by evolutionary ethics. Effective artificial moral systems should be designed in a way that is sensitive to the connection between human morality and human evolutionary history. I believe that the best way to make moral artificial intelligences is to develop them using game-theoretic solutions to moral problems, and codify these solutions within the artificial system into a variable that approximates human ‘moral emotions’. 

I argue against the idea that artificial systems can be ‘full’ moral agents like humans are without evolutionary history. While the idea of a system that can provide moral solutions or beliefs without being evolutionary can be appealing and, on the face of it, offer simplicity, our current artificial system creation methodologies are insufficient to create non-evolutionary moral systems. Not only that, but they are unlikely to ever do so in the future, since any non-evolutionary input is likely to impinge on the agent’s independence from others, and therefore undermine their autonomy.

This project is interdisciplinary and spans fields including philosophy of mind, applied ethics, metaethics, moral epistemology, and evolutionary theory. However, my approach is fundamentally a metaethically motivated one – since I believe that creating ‘full’ moral agents will, in the long run, help us to better understand the true nature of moral facts. 



Research interests

Co-Founder of the Ethics and Technology Early-Career Group (ETEG).


  • BA in Philosophy at University of Liverpool (2013-2016)
  • MA in Philosophy at Bilkent University (2016-2018)