The Ethical Challenges of Drone Warfare. Is the Just War Tradition Obsolete?
Joshua Lehman, MAJ(P), SF • January 26, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. EDT
Is it right to program machines to kill? The proliferation of drones in combat has challenged traditional understanding of justice in war. For example, drones have been used to strike enemy targets outside of the context of war. More concerning, algorithms are increasingly taking the place of decision making once reserved exclusively to the morally responsible military actor. MAJ Joshua Lehman teaches philosophy and the ethics of war at West Point. Experience as an operations officer with responsibility for drone strikes informs his study of the ethics of drone warfare. In his presentation, Major Lehman will discuss Just War Theory, the corresponding framework for using drones in combat, and the ethics and implications of the increasing autonomy of drones.
Major Joshua Lehman is Instructor of English and Philosophy at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Special Forces officer, and a 2005 graduate of West Point. His degrees include an MA in Defense and Strategic Studies from the US Naval War College, the MA in Theology from Holy Apostles College & Seminary, and the MA in Philosophy from Boston College. His research interests include metaphysics, just-war tradition, and strategic studies. Major Lehman’s service with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, KY includes missions in Iraq, Syria, and others throughout the Middle East. His duty positions include command of a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha, command of an advanced skills company, and service as the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 5th SFG (A)
The Role of Emotions in Facing Climate Change
Dr. Sarah Jaquette Ray • February 24, 2022 at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Dr. Sarah Jaquette Ray discusses her book, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet. The book threads together different aspects of the environmental humanities, including social movement theory, environmental justice, climate psychology, mindfulness and affect theory, to outline strategies for coping with anxiety, grief, despair and other responses to the climate crisis and other crises, such as coronavirus and ongoing struggles for racial justice. Ray will talk about how a new generation of young activists is changing the climate movement and why it’s so important for them and for the planet that they cultivate intellectual and existential resilience. What will it take to imagine, desire, and thrive in a climate-changed future? How can taking an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problems help us rise to this historical moment?
Dr. Sarah Jaquette Ray is chair of the Environmental Studies Department at Humboldt State University. Her first book, The Ecological Other: Environmental Exclusion in American Culture (Arizona, 2013) explores the ways that environmental discourse often reinforces existing social hierarchies, drawing on a legacy of nativist, racial, and ableist exclusion in environmental history. Her second book, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet (California, 2020) is an existential toolkit for the climate generation. Dr. Ray is working on an Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators and a workshop offering for educators, the Climate Wisdom Lab.
Ethics of AI and Health Care: Towards a Substantive Human Rights Framework
S. Matthew Liao • March 25, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. EDT
There is enormous interest in using artificial intelligence (AI) in health care contexts. But before AI can be used in such settings, we need to make sure that AI researchers and organizations follow appropriate ethical frameworks and guidelines when developing these technologies. In recent years, a great number of ethical frameworks for AI have been proposed. However, these frameworks have tended to be abstract and not explain what grounds and justifies their recommendations and how one should use these recommendations in practice. In his presentation, Dr. Liao will propose an AI ethics framework that is grounded in substantive, human rights theory and one that can help us address these questions.
S. Matthew Liao is Arthur Zitrin Chair of Bioethics, Director of the Center for Bioethics, Professor of Global Public Health, and Affiliated Professor in the Department of Philosophy at New York University. He is the author or editor of The Right to Be Loved (Oxford University Press); Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (Oxford University Press); Moral Brains: The Neuroscience of Morality (Oxford University Press); The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights (Oxford University Press); Current Controversies in Bioethics (Routledge), and over 60 articles in philosophy and bioethics. He has given TED and TEDx talks in New York and CERN, Switzerland, and he has been featured in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, the BBC, Harper’s Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, Scientific American and other media outlets. He is the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Moral Philosophy, a peer-reviewed international journal of moral, political and legal philosophy.
Synthetic Living Organisms: Heralds of a Revolution in Technology and Ethics
Dr. Michael Levin • October 12, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. EDT
Progress at the intersection of biology, computer science, and cognitive science is revealing the remarkable plasticity of living systems and their interoperability with technology. Synthetic bioengineering enables regenerative medicine, as well as the creation of entirely new living organisms, like “Xenobots.” Advances in the field blur the lines between machines and organisms. Emerging questions in bioethics extend well beyond safety-driven limitations on research and ask how we will handle a forthcoming and inevitable plethora of hybrid creatures, which will be unlike us in many ways and have no comfortable place on the phylogenetic tree that guides our policies. Dr. Levin will illustrate that these alien creatures raise profound questions about the fundamental nature of our own bodies and minds, with numerous ethical ramifications.
Dr. Michael Levin is Distinguished Professor and Vannevar Bush Professor of Biology at Tufts University. He serves as Director of the Allen Discovery Center and the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. His interdisciplinary teams are learning to control tissue growth and regeneration — to heal, to repair, and potentially to create new forms of life itself.
Biotechnology and Global Health: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dr. Bryan Cwik • November 4, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. EDT
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed myriad vulnerabilities and inequities in global health. One major lesson that the world must learn is how biotechnology and access to biotechnical infrastructure have impacted the course of the pandemic and the distribution of its burdens. Discussions of global-health ethics often (and rightly) focus on lack of basic health care infrastructure. Although it is not a substitute for shortfalls in clinical resources, biotechnology plays an important role in global health. Dr. Cwik will discuss how addressing major ethical challenges in global health requires diffusion of biomedical technology and technical capacity to address issues, such as inequitable access to vaccines.
Dr. Bryan Cwik is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and University Studies at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. He studies biomedical ethics and political philosophy. He has published on gene editing, climate change, and intellectual property, and is currently at work on a book on the ethics of biotechnology.
Quantification in Ethics
Dr. James Franklin • November 30, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. EDT
Ethics is usually thought of as involving no quantification – it is about discussing principles and resolving dilemmas with arguments just in words. But many ethical decisions require a degree of quantification, precise or imprecise. Just because humans have an equal ethical worth (itself not quantifiable), they sometimes need to be counted, as in taking a course of military or healthcare action that minimizes number of deaths. More subtle cases include compensation calculations, monetary debts, and healthcare allocation using quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). The talk gives an overview of where quantification is needed in ethics and how it meshes with non-quantitative considerations.
Dr. James Franklin was Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His research interests include the philosophy of mathematics, the history of ideas (especially probability) and extreme risk theory. His books include Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia and An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics. He was awarded the 2005 Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics. He taught the world’s first course on Professional Issues and Ethics in Mathematics.