We are in the midst of a new revolution - one fueled by exponential advances in technology. Admittedly, these advances have brought forth tremendous benefits for society. Among other things, they have led to the development of better vaccines and medicines, improved food production, and fostered social interaction and political engagement. There is, however, a cost. Advances in technology can also make the world a much more dangerous place in which to live - having tremendous implications for national security.
While technological advances have improved current weapons systems and led to the development of more precise means and methods of warfare, they have also created tools that can kill with an efficiency rarely imagined, and in ways rarely foreseen. Compounding the danger is the fact that advances in technology reduce traditional barriers to entry, increasing the likelihood these new weapons may fall into the hands of rogue actors. The new weapons also have the potential to render civilians more likely to be personally affected by the direct and collateral effects of conflict. Finally, the speed at which new weapons are being developed severely impacts the ability of nations to create adequate defenses.
In the face of such dire consequences, a window of opportunity remains. It is not too late to regulate or even proscribe the development of such weapons from the outset. This limited window underscores the ethical obligation to act, now, while governance is still possible.
This conference will address four domains of technological advancement and the new weaponry each can or may foster. Each domain will have its own moderator-led panel discussion. Each panel will consist of experts in the fields of neuroscience, cybersecurity, nanotechnology, biology, chemistry, or national security. The makeup of the panels will seek to leverage a cross section of experts representing industry, government and academia. Each panel will also contain at least one ethicist or attorney to foster discussion of the legal and/or ethical concerns raised by technological advances in the given domain. The four panels are described in greater detail, below. Having identified the dangers present in each category, the respective panelists will discuss: the likelihood the new weaponry may be used for malign purposes; the relative ease with which it may be acquired, the adequacy of current regulatory measures, the need for new or better governance and what that governance might entail, and the need to identify and resolve a host of novel ethical issues.