Skip to main content

Defense technologies raise critical questions

May 24, 2010

What are the ramifications of making self-directed robots, cyborg insects, drone fighter aircraft and cognitive-enhancement drugs essential tools of national defense operations?

Are we prepared to deal with the social, political and moral implications of deploying these powerful military technologies?

Such technology isn’t futuristic, it’s on the near horizon, says Arizona State University engineering professor Brad Allenby.

Allenby writes in the online news magazine Slate about the challenges we face in framing a rational societal response to the potential impacts of these stunningly advanced technologies – impacts that will reach far beyond the battlefield.

The article is published in conjunction with "Warring Futures: How Biotech and Robotics Are Transforming Today's Military—and How That Will Change the Rest of Us," a May 24 conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.  Read article.

To hear an interview on the the subject with Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz, director of ASU's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, on the national radio program The Takeaway, click here.

The show is a co-production of Public Radio International and WNYC Radio in collaboration with BBC World Service, The New York Times and WGBH Boston.

Allenby is a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He’s also the ASU Lincoln Center Professor of Engineering and Ethics.

He is working with the U. S. Naval Academy Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership in a program bringing together scholars and teachers with senior career military officers, civil servants and others to promote public understanding of ethics and leadership issues involving war and defense strategies.

Related to that effort, Allenby investigates the social, cultural, ethical and operational implications of emerging military and national security technologies.