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We acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation - the custodians of the country in which we meet - and acknowledge their Elders, past and present.

Counterfeit People

Lizzie O'Shea, Patrick Stokes, Emily van der Nagel
Chaired by Rob Brooks
Sun 25 August 11:45am
Sun 25 August 11:45am
Unveiling our fragmented online identities.

The late philosopher and scientist, Daniel Dennett talked about ‘counterfeit people’ as one of the great dangers of AI but are we now willing to court the same dangers through our adoption of multiple identities across the metaverse. Moving from the confinement of physical reality to the landscape of the metaverse, where looks, preferences, and genders are limitless, we can each acquire many digital selves. Is a ‘virtual you’ a truer reflection of your deepest self – revealing desires and aspects that otherwise remain hidden? What is the human cost of leaving the physical world behind? What are the ethical implications of living without boundaries in a digital space where the borders between morality and legality, in the ‘real world’, begin to dissolve? 

Supported By

The value of identity and anonymity are both central to the current social media war to gain user attention and loyalty.

Lizzie O’Shea


Patrick Stokes

Patrick Stokes is associate professor of philosophy at Deakin University, and a writer, radio producer, and media commentator on philosophical matters. He is currently engaged in a three-year Australian Research Council-funded project, ‘Digital Death and Immortality.’ His most recent book is Digital Souls: A Philosophy of Online Death (2021).


Emily van der Nagel

Emily van der Nagel is a Lecturer in Social Media at Monash University. She researches social media identities, platforms, and cultures, with a particular focus on digital intimacies. Her book, Sex and Social Media, co-authored with Katrin Tiidenberg, takes a feminist, sex-positive approach to how social media platforms shape and restrict sex. Emily is currently working on a research project about how Australians use social media to create and subscribe to content on OnlyFans.


Rob Brooks

Rob Brooks is Professor of Evolution at UNSW Sydney and a popular science author. He has spent his career understanding the many complexities and conflict that sex and reproduction add to the lives of animals, including human animals. His popular writing explores the murky confluence of culture, economics and biology, and how new technologies interact with our evolved minds and bodies. He has won the Queensland Literary Award for Science (for his first book Sex, Genes and Rock ‘n’ Roll), and the Eureka Prize for Science Communication. His articles have been published in Psyche, CNN, The Atlantic, The Sydney Morning Herald, Areo, and many other publications. His latest book Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers, and Algorithmic Matchmakers considers what happens when new technology collides with our ancient ways of forming relationships and falling in love.

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25 August
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