New technologies enhance human well-being but sometimes pose new risks.

The Reilly Center promotes reflection on the ethical and policy dimensions of research and development along with careful monitoring of the social impacts of technical innovation. We do this through collaborative research, outreach, and course work. Currently our efforts are focused within the following more specific areas:

Weapons and Intelligence Ethics

The Reilly Center’s ETNSI initiative (Emerging Technologies of National Security and Intelligence) examines the ethical and policy challenges raised by an ever widening array of new technologies of war fighting and intelligence, from remotely piloted vehicles and soldier bioenhancement to less-than-lethal weapons and autonomous weapons systems. 


The ever more rapid proliferation of robotic systems raises many ethical challenges, from the ethics of human-robot interactions research and development, to ethics programming for autonomous systems, and the social impact of robotic technology in such areas as self-driving vehicles the ever more extensive displacement of human labor by automated and autonomous systems. 

Cyberconflict and Cybersecurity 

As kinetic conflict evolves into virtual conflict in the cyber realm, the received ethical framework of Just War Theory is pressed into domains for which it was not originally intended. Will it still afford us with the needed conceptual tools for norming conflict in these arenas? At the same time, our dependence on computers and electronic communication expose fundamental vulnerabilities and threats to our security. 

Big Data, Data Mining, Biometrics, Privacy, and Civil Liberties  

In a world with ubiquitous sensing, data collection, and data aggregation and analysis capabilities, what becomes of privacy and civil liberties? Who controls these technologies, and will they be put to use in service only for purposes of social control or also to enhance human well being? 

Synthetic Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neuroscience

As we learn how to engineer life and mind at the atomic and molecular level, as we blur the line between the human and the machine, human identity, itself, comes into question. The same technologies that can cure disease may also pose the risk of releasing devastating new pathogens. Are there boundaries that we should not cross, avenues of research that should forever remain barred? 

Modern Telecommunications

Rapid change in the technology of communication – from smart phones and instant messaging to unbreakable encryption and exploding bandwidth – pose many tough questions about such things as justice and fairness in access to communication technologies and communication privacy. 


With science and engineering exploring the space between the atomic scale and the macroworld, we confront an abundance of new ethical and policy questions. Biology did not evolve in a world suffused with carbon nanotubes. Do we understand the consequences for human health? And how do we regulate the introduction of artificial structures on the nanoscale for therapeutic purposes, as with drug delivery systems in the form of “boxes” woven from strands of DNA?

Learn more about the many relationships members of the Reilly Center cultivate with scholars and organizations to pursue such research.


Leads for The Ethics of Emerging Technologies are Don Howard, Professor of Philosophy, and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert Latiff.