Success and the Ethics of Harnessing Minds Plus Technology

October 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Omand, D. (Kings College London; Former Director, GCHQ; First UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator); Giordano, J. (Georgetown University Medical Center); Moreno, J. (University of Pennsylvania).
Moderator: Wright, N. (Intelligent Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, University College London, and Center for Strategic and International Studies)

Date: 26 October 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Sir David Omand (Kings College London; Former Director, GCHQ; First UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator), Dr. Jonathan Moreno (University of Pennsylvania), and Dr. Jim Giordano (Georgetown University Medical Center) as part of its SMA EUCOM Speaker Session. The Panel was moderated by Dr. Nicholas Wright (Intelligent Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, University College London, and Center for Strategic and International Studies).

Creating technologies that influence individuals’ minds is technically, but also morally and ethically, complex. Technology that impacts the Mind-Tech Nexus can potentially change how people think and react in the real world. Dr. Giordano commented that some technologies can even change the molecular and genetic makeup of organisms. These technologies have implications for the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and strategic competition, including between the US and China. The moral and ethical codes influencing the creation process of these technologies is very important. The United States’ near peer competitors—including China and Russia—do not have the same moral code as many western democracies. However, lower moral standards are not necessarily an advantage.

The ethical development of technologies gives countries moral leverage, which is advantageous during strategic competition. Conducting research ethically and in a transparent and rigorous research environment also creates more conclusive results. Dr. Moreno emphasized that ethical codes do not create research roadblocks, but instead only speed bumps. The US is considered as always having the ethical and moral high ground; however, ethically questionable science has been practiced by US scientists before. Experiments such as the Tuskegee Institute’s syphilis test and volunteer programs that exposed 7,000 US soldiers to 250 different chemicals are only two examples.

Technological innovation has historically occurred in waves in both the US and the UK. These waves of innovation have allowed for US and UK intelligence communities to assert information and intelligence dominance over their adversaries. Technologies such as the telegraph during the civil war and cryptography during WWII have played pivotal roles for combatants’ abilities to control information. Sir David commented that the latest technological revolution has included the creation of the internet and the prevalence of mobile devices. He emphasized that technology created during wartime can often erode society’s ethics and morals during peace time. Being transparent to the public is crucial to safeguarding society and increasing technological capacity. 

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


Sir David Omand GCB is Visiting Professor in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. His posts in British government service included UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator in the Cabinet Office, Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Policy in the Ministry of Defence, He served for seven years as a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). He is a member of the Senior Advisory Board of Paladin Capital and until 2021 he was the Senior Independent Director of Babcock International Group. He has published three books, Securing the State (London: Hurst 2010) and (with Prof Mark Phythian) Principled Spying: the Ethics of Secret Intelligence (Oxford 2018). His latest book How Spies Think: 10 Lessons from Intelligence is now published in paperback by Penguin (July 2021). He is currently writing a book for Penguin Viking on How to Survive a Crisis.

Dr. James Giordano is Pellegrino Center Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Biochemistry; Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program; and Chair of the Subprogram in Military Medical Ethics at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington DC. Professor Giordano is a Bioethicist of the Defense Medical Ethics Center at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences; Distinguished Stockdale Fellow in Science, Technology, and Ethics at the United States Naval Academy; Senior Fellow in Biosecurity, Technology, and Ethics at the US Naval War College, Newport, RI; Senior Science Advisory Fellow of the SMA Branch, Joint Staff, Pentagon; Chair Emeritus of the Neuroethics Project of the IEEE Brain Initiative; and serves as Director of the Institute for Biodefense Research, a federally funded Washington DC think tank dedicated to addressing emerging issues at the intersection of science, technology and national defense. He previously served as Donovan Group Senior Fellow, US Special Operations Command; member of the Neuroethics, Legal, and Social Issues Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and Task Leader of the Working Group on Dual-Use of the EU-Human Brain Project. Prof. Giordano is the author of 335 peer-reviewed publications, 7 books and 40 governmental reports on science, technology, and biosecurity, and is an elected member of the European Academy of Science and Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (UK), and a Fulbright Professorial Fellow. A former US Naval officer, he held designations as an aerospace physiologist, and research psychologist, and served with the US Navy and Marine Corps.

Dr. Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor. At Penn, he is also Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, of History and Sociology of Science, and of Philosophy. His most recent books are Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die: Bioethics and the Transformation of Healthcare in America, co-authored with Penn president Amy Gutmann; and The Brain in Context: A Pragmatic Guide to Neuroscience, written with neuroscientist Jay Schulkin.  Moreno is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. He has served as staff member or adviser to many governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee, three U.S. presidential commissions, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2008-09 he served as a member of President Barack Obama’s transition team. Moreno received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, was an Andrew W. Mellon post-doctoral fellow, holds an honorary doctorate from Hofstra University, and is a recipient of the College of William and Mary Law School Benjamin Rush Medal, the Dr. Jean Mayer Award for Global Citizenship from Tufts University, and the Penn Alumni Faculty Award of Merit.  He has held the honorary Visiting Professorship in History at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. In 2018 the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.


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