Response. From the standpoint of decision makers, there is a world of difference between the possibility that technology X could provide military advantages and a clear demonstration that technology X does provide military advantages in specific and important operational scenarios. That is, the latter provides a proof of principle that technology X is worth a significant investment. This point argues that in some cases, it may make sense to separate decisions about exploring the value of a technology (a preliminary step) from decisions based on demonstrating how it can be used to confer military advantages (a more decisive step), and to make such decisions separately.

An argument. We don’t know the significance of technology X, so we must work on it in order to understand its implications, and we would be unwise to give up on it without knowing if and how it might have value to the United States.

Response. This argument poses a false choice between cessation of all investigatory work on X and proceeding to work on X without any constraints at all. In fact, there are a variety of choices available in between these two extremes, the most significant of which is something along the lines of “proceed, but carefully.” Intermediate choices are addressed in Chapters 4 and 5 and in the recommendations made in Chapter 8.

An argument. Consideration of ethical, legal, and societal issues will slow the innovation process to an unacceptable degree.

Response. Although the argument is surely true in some cases, it is not necessarily true in all cases. For example, it depends on the nature and extent of such consideration. Moreover, a consideration of ethical, legal, and societal issues is hardly the only dimension of the military acquisition process on which that process may be slowed. Finally, a small slowdown in the process up front may in fact be worth the cost if it helps to prevent a subsequent explosion of concern that takes program managers by surprise.

An argument. Research on and development of defensive technologies and applications is morally justified, whereas work on offensive technologies is morally suspect.

Response. The categories of “offensive” and “defensive” technologies are not conceptually clear, because offensive technologies (that is, technologies that can kill or destroy) can be used for defensive purposes, and, similarly, defensive technologies (that is, technologies that prevent or reduce death or destruction) can be used for



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement