Reilly Center will host conference on the ethics of emerging weapons technologies

Author: Jessica Baron

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This year, the National Academy of Sciences will release a report on the ethical issues surrounding weapons technologies that are either being developed or are already available. The report, titled
"Emerging and Readily Available Technologies and National Security: A Framework for Addressing Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues" was commissioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in order to begin a discussion about the conduct and applications of research on military technology as well as their unforseen and inadvertant consequences. Authors of the report include the NAS's Committee on Ethical and Societal Implications of Advances in Militarily Significant Technologies that are Rapidly Changing and Increasingly Globally Accessible; Computer Science and Telecommunications Board; Board on Life Sciences; Committee on Science, Technology, and Law; Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society; National Research Council; National Academy of Engineering.

This month, the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values at the University of Notre Dame will host a conference entitled "Ahead Of The Curve: Anticipating Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues Posed by Emerging Weapons Technologies" in order to discuss the "action-oriented" chapters of the report. Organizers hope to generate ideas that will help government agencies, institutions, and researchers grow the expertise necessary for early and continuing engagement with the ethical, legal, and societal implications of new weapons technologies as they are planned and developed. The conference will be held April 22-23, 2014 in the Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom in Notre Dame's Eck Hall of Law.

Speakers will include members of the NAS committee that wrote the report, along with distinguished experts on the ethics, law, and social impacts of new weapons technologies and representatives of agencies and organizations that are home to cutting-edge weapons research. Dr. Steven H. Walker, Deputy Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; Maj. Gen. Robert Latiff USAF (Ret.), Committee Member and Adjunct Professor at the Reilly Center; and Dr. Herb Lin, also a Committee Director and Chief Scientist at the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council of the National Academies will all speak at the two-day conference. Presentations will address the ethical, legal, and societal issues that policy makers, researchers, and industries need to anticipate as new technologies arise, specifically in fields such as robotics, autonomous systems, prosthetics and human enhancement, cyber weapons, information warfare technologies, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology.

The conference is free and open to the public with registration. You can find out more about the conference at or click here to register by e-mail.

This conference is co-sponsored by the Notre Dame Law School, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame, and the Notre Dame International Security Program (NDISP). 

Media should contact Jessica Baron at for more information.

To learn more about the Reilly Center's Emerging Technologies of National Security and Intelligence research initiative, including courses for undergraduates, events, members, and resources, click here.