Tom Simpson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College.
He has joined the School from Cambridge, where he was a Research Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, and was also educated (BA, MPhil, PhD).
Between degrees he was an officer with the Royal Marines Commandos for 5 years. He served in Northern Ireland as a Troop Commander with 45 Commando; as aide-de-camp to the senior UK General in Baghdad, Iraq; and as an intelligence and operations officer with HQ 3 Commando Brigade RM when it led the UK Task Force in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The academic life is undoubtedly a privilege, but he remains conflicted about its sedentary nature.
I work on trust, both its theory and practical applications. I also work on questions thrown up by information and computing technologies; on the ethics of war; and especially about the intersection of these.
Killer robots & drones
In ongoing work, I am addressing the ethics of lethal autonomous weapons systems, so-called 'killer robots', which is closely related to the ethics of drones. Regarding killer robots, most philosophers who write and activists who campaign on killer robots think they should be banned, because the decision to kill should never be delegated to a machine. I think they're wrong.
On drones, while the technology prompts a variety of questions, the most pressing one is properly general: what should be the institutional structure, if any, within which lethal force may be used defensively against terrorist groups? I have contributed to the UK's Joint Committee on Human Rights (2015-16) inquiry on the use of drones for targeted killings, in joint work with Richard Ekins (Law, Oxford). We argue that a modified version of International Humanitarian Law is most appropriate.
2016. The law needs to catch up in the fight against ISIS. Op-ed for CapX
This addresses the central ethical and legal questions raised by targeted killings with drones
2015. 'Who is held accountable for civilian killings?' Panellist, Al Jazeera's Inside Story
2015. Leaked drone files reveal ethical questions hang over 'grey area' strikes. Op-ed for The Conversation
2015. Will Killer Robots be the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow? Op-ed for The Telegraph
2015. Just War and Robots' Killings (with Vincent C. Müller). Forthcoming in Philosophical Quarterly
2014. Killer robots: Regulate, don't ban (with Vincent C. Müller). BSG Policy Memo
2014. Killer Robots are Like Drugs: Regulate, but resist the urge to ban. Op-ed for The Conversation
2011. Robots, Trust and War. Philosophy and Technology 24(3): 325-37
This address the central moral and political questions raised by the Snowden revelations
2014. Are we living in an Orwellian State? BSG blog
I have convened the Foundations module for the past three years. This autumn (2016), I am on sabbatical, and the course is being convened by Prof Jo Wolff.
Foundations is one of the core modules on the Masters in Public Policy (MPP). Its purpose is to introduce students to the fundamental values that both justify and should inform the practice of government; to equip students to identify the moral issues at stake in policy issues; and to help them reason well regarding those issues. See here for more. The module takes place in Michaelmas term.
I am co-editing a volume of new philosophical essays on trust, with Paul Faulkner (Sheffield). This is in press with Oxford University Press, with expected publication in early 2017.
Articles & book chapters
Forthcoming. Telepresence and Trust: A Speech-Act Theory of Mediated Communication. Philosophy and Technology
Forthcoming. Trust and Evidence. In The Philosophy of Trust, ed. P. Faulkner and T. Simpson. Oxford: Oxford University Press
2016. _____ and Vincent C. Müller. Just War and Robots' Killings. Philosophical Quarterly 66(263): 302-22
2016. The Morality of Unconventional Force. In Ethics and the Future of Spying: Technology, National Security and Intelligence Collection, ed. J. Galliott and W. Reed, pp. 132-42. London: Routledge
2015. Testimony in John's Gospel: The Puzzle of 5:31 and 8:14. Tyndale Bulletin 65(1): 101-18
2014b. Computing and the Search for Trust. In Dialogues: Trust, Computing and Society, ed. R. Harper, pp. 95-119. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
2014a. The Wrong in Cyberattacks. In Ethics of Information Warfare, ed. L. Floridi and M. Taddeo, pp. 141-154. London: Springer
2013a. Trustworthiness and Moral Character. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16(3): 543-57
2012a. What is Trust? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93(4): 550-69
2012b. Evaluating Google as an Epistemic Tool. Metaphilosophy 43(4): 426-45. Reprinted in Philosophical Engineering: Toward a Philosophy of the Web, ed. A. Monin and H. Halpin, 97-115. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (2014)
2012c. Testimony and Sincerity. Ratio 25(1): 79-92
2011a. Robots, Trust and War. Philosophy and Technology 24(3): 325-37
2011b. e-Trust and Reputation. Ethics and Information Technology 13(1): 29-38
Book reviews & symposia
2015. Cécile Fabre and Seth Lazar (eds), The Morality of Defensive War. Philosophical Quarterly 65(260): 590-93
2015. Did Marine A do wrong? On Biggar's Lethal Intentions. Studies in Christian Ethics 28(3): 287-91
2013b. Critical Notice of Benjamin McMyler, Testimony, Trust, & Authority and Paul Faulkner, Knowledge on Trust. Mind 122(485): 305-11
Please email me for the published version if required.