Automation and Immigration

Upcoming Events Login

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Thursday, February 25, 20213:10PM - 5:00PMOnline Event, Online Event
+ Register for this Event Print this Event Bookmark this Event


Harney Lecture Series


Migration and automation are dominant trends of our age. Both are changing how we work and live. When it comes to migration, many voters want tighter restrictions. They are worried that migrants are ‘stealing their jobs’ and ‘changing the culture’. Politicians are responding with promises to get tough. Automation is different. People worry about automation but not in the same way. Voters are not calling for the numbers of machines to be reduced or even controlled. There are no anti-robot political parties. Politicians do not win elections by getting tough on computer chips.

The question is ‘why?’ Why is there such significant opposition to migration and yet so little to automation? Why limit migrants but not robots?

The paper asks these questions not only in relation to the public debate on migration but also the debate amongst philosophers. In the first part, it looks at some of the main philosophical arguments for immigration restrictions and shows how the arguments apply equally to automation. In the second part, the paper offers a hypothesis as to why migration, not automation, generates public opposition. It is human to classify other humans in terms of in-groups and out-groups. Migrants, being human, are readily identified as an out-group. Machines are not human. In short, anti-migrant prejudice seems to explain the difference. If prejudice is so crucial in explaining opposition to immigration, we have further reason to doubt the permissibility of immigration restrictions.


Kieran Oberman
Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Edinburgh

Tom Parr
Associate Professor, University of Warwick

If you are attending a Munk School event and require accommodation(s), please email the event contact listed above to make appropriate arrangements.

Disclaimer: Please note that events posted on this website are considered to be public events – unless otherwise stated – and you are choosing to enter a space where your image and/or voice may be captured as part of event proceedings that may be made public as part of a broadcast, webcast, or publication (online and in print). We make every effort to ensure your personal information is kept and used in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). If you have any questions please get in touch with our office at or 416-946-8900.

Newsletter Signup Sign up for the Munk School Newsletter

× Strict NO SPAM policy. We value your privacy, and will never share your contact info.