Press release:

US Naval Academy Professor to Discuss War Technologies and Ethics at Cal Poly on Feb 4
Do new technologies lower barriers to waging war? What is the “principle of last resort”?

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—January 12, 2011—The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly today announced the next talk in its Technology, Policy & Ethics Lecture Series. US Naval Academy Professor George R. Lucas, Jr. will deliver an invited lecture entitled “New Military Technologies and the Resort to War” on Friday, February 4, 2:00-3:30p in Building 06-124 (Philips Hall, next to PAC) at Cal Poly.

“It is well that war is so terrible; otherwise, we should grow too fond of it,” said Civil War General Robert E. Lee. But, as many ethicists worry, the use of novel military technologies could be making war easier to engage in, rather than saving it as a last resort when diplomacy and all other measures have failed. For instance, with robots performing dangerous work, such as locating and defusing IEDs, we can save lives on our side, thus reducing the political and human costs of war. With cyberweapons, we can disable our enemy’s critical computer systems to disrupt their military capabilities, instead of using bombs and bullets to achieve the same goal.

Prof. Lucas will discuss these new military technologies and trends, including the use of private military contractors such as Blackwater/Xe, as related to the pressing concern that they immorally lower barriers to war. But to properly understand this concern, we first need to be clear on what exactly the “principle of last resort” is. Lucas will explain how different interpretations of this principle seem to lower or raise the threshold at which we are morally permitted to wage war.

“We’re privileged to have Professor Lucas come to Cal Poly, because he is one of the foremost scholars in military ethics—and war regrettably continues to make headlines,” said Dr. Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics + Emerging Science Group and assistant philosophy professor at Cal Poly. “At first glance, new technologies seem to be a good thing if they help to more quickly and safely resolve conflicts. But it’s still an open ethical question whether they enable us to also more quickly choose a military path rather than non-violent actions to settle our differences.”

Prof. George R. Lucas, Jr. is the Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the US Naval Academy (Annapolis) and Professor of Ethics and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey). He was the Chair of the Philosophy Dept. at Univ. of Santa Clara and also taught at Georgetown, Emory, and other universities. Prof. Lucas has authored five books and 40+ journal articles, and is co-editor of eight volumes in philosophy and ethics. These titles include Anthropologists in Arms: the Ethics of Military Anthropology, as well as Ethics and the Military Profession: the Moral Foundations of Leadership and its companion volume, Case Studies in Military Ethics, which are used in core courses devoted to ethical leadership throughout the nation.

The talk is free and open to the public. 

Based at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group is a non-partisan research and educational organization focused on the risk, ethical, and social impacts of emerging technologies. Current projects and interests are related to issues in robotics, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space development, geoengineering, and other areas. Please visit us at or


Patrick Lin, Ph.D., Director
palin [at]

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