Ethics of military technologies among topics at UNT conference on philosophy and technology

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Both the Bush and the Obama administrations authorized the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to conduct strikes during military operations, including recent Predator attacks against Moammar Gadhafi's troops in Libya.

The ethical use of new technologies for war like Predators, which are equipped with advanced sensors and live-video surveillance cameras and are capable of precision strikes, is one of the topics that will be debated at the 17th annual International Conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology scheduled at the University of North Texas May 26-29 (Thursday-Sunday). The conference will take place at UNT's Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, located at 1704 W. Mulberry St. on the northwest corner of Avenue C and West Mulberry. Registration, costing $140 for students and $250 for others, is available on the conference website until May 26 (Thursday).

The conference theme, "Technology and Security," encompasses not only military technology, but also issues such as cybersecurity, environmental and energy security, cultural and political implications of technology in developing nations, and religion and technology use, said Dr. Adam Briggle, UNT assistant professor of philosophy and religion studies and conference co-director.

Dr. Peter W. Singer, author of the bestselling 2009 book "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolutions and Conflict in the 21st Century," will give the conference's keynote address May 27 (Friday) at 5 p.m. He will discuss the ethics of merging military technologies, including unmanned drones and technologically advanced soldiers.

Wired for War made The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list during its first week of release, and was named a nonfiction book of the year by "The Financial Times." The book has been featured on CBS' Late, Late Show and Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and in the video game "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot." The book has been included in required reading lists for the National Defense University and the Royal Australian Navy.

Singer is a senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The youngest scholar named a senior fellow in the institution's 90-year history, he was named to the 2009 Top 100 Global Thinkers list by Foreign Policy Magazine.

Other featured speakers include Braden Allenby, founding chair of the Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations, and National Security, a multi-institutional organization dedicated to providing the basis for the ethical, rational and responsible understanding and management of the complex set of issues raised by emerging technologies, their use in military operations and their broader implications for national security.

Allenby, the Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics at Arizona State University, will be one of three participants on the panel on military technology and national security, discussing cyberwar, enhanced and robotic soldiers and other emerging technologies. He will be joined by George Lucas, professor of philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy and head of the ethics section of the academy's Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law, and Patrick Lin, director of California Polytechnic State University's Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group.

Another panel will introduce the new journal, Philosophy & Technology. The journal's editor-in-chief, Luciano Floridi of the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, is "the emerging leader in the field," said Briggle, who is on the new journal's editorial board. 

Briggle notes that although technology is widely assumed to benefit developing nations, it can also inhabit those nations from an ethicist's view.

"Some of the genetically modified crops, for example, have not always been successful. Changing the natural crops for a climate may disrupt a balance, with dreams of increased yield increasing the potential for disaster," he said. 

Note to editors and reporters: Members of the media are welcome to attend the conference for free. For more information and a conference schedule, contact Briggle at 940-369-5136.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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