The Ethics of Emergent Weapons and technologies* (Spring 2018)

Course description:  Although technological advances have always affected how wars are fought, current technologies have modified wars to the point that contemporary warfare does not involve a confrontation between armies in an opened battle field. Instead, wars are now fought, so to speak, at a distance, with unmanned vehicles controlled by operators living thousands of miles away. Drones and terrestrial robots are quickly replacing pilots and soldiers, and cyberattacks are rapidly taking over the role played by missiles and bombs. Not much time is expected before we find completely autonomous killer robots and robotically enhanced soldiers (i.e., ironman) in the battlefield. The development of these new war technologies has raised ethical concerns, ranging from worries about whether we should give a machine the autonomy to determine when to kill a human, to whether is it right to biologically modify a soldier, to questions about who to blame when a robot fires by mistake. In this course, students will learn about the emerging war technologies and some of the ethical and legal concerns that come with these. The course is discussion-based, and at the end of every class where we introduce a new weapon we will discuss some of the ethical concerns that the technologies in question produce. Three main topics will be covered: 1) types of emerging weapon technologies, 2) just war theory, and 3) normative ethics.

*: Co-taught with Maj. Gen Robert Latiff (I taught 21 of the 29 classes).