Virtue in the Loop: Designing Ethical Military AI Systems

The use of artificial intelligence is growing across the military, where it is becoming an essential component of the contemporary warfighter’s toolbox. While the ethics of autonomous weapons have rightly gained much attention, it is just as important to consider the ethics of human-machine interactions. Research has shown that automated systems can affect character and decision-making, aspects of human action that belong to the category of virtue ethics.

This conference will explore how military AI systems can foster virtuous action. Because of the complex nature of these problems, the conference brings together both scholars and practitioners: philosophers, theologians, military experts, policy-makers, and programmers. Interdisciplinary discussion will allow the development of new pathways for guiding the ethical use of this rapidly progressing technology.

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Watch the recordings on the IHE YouTube Channel by clicking the session titles in the schedule below.



9-9:30 Welcome: 

Provost Aaron Dominguez
The Catholic University of America

Ronald Keesing, Vice President for Artificial Intelligence

Paul Scherz, Associate Professor of Moral Theology/Ethics
The Catholic University of America, School of Theology and Religious Studies

9:30 – 10:30 KeynoteArtificial Intelligence in the Military  

Paul Scharre, Vice President and Director of Studies
Center for a New American Security

Luis Vera, Assistant Professor of Theology
Mount Saint Mary’s University

10:40 – 12:30 Panel : What Problems Does AI Present from the Standpoint of Virtue Ethics? 

Colonel James Cook, Permanent Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy
U.S. Air Force Academy

Jonathan Askonas, Assistant Professor 
The Catholic University of America, School of Arts and Sciences

Anna Feuer, Julian Steward Chair of Social Sciences
Deep Springs College

Maaike Verbruggen, Ph.D Researcher
Institute for European Studies

1:30 – 2:30 Keynote:The Ethics of Military Uses of Artificial Intelligence: Sustaining Virtue, Locating Responsibility, and Calibrating Risk 

Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology
University of Oxford

Anton Barba-Kay, Associate Professor
The Catholic University of America, School of Philosophy

2:30 – 3:15 Conversation: What is the role of ethics in the US Military Technology Development? 

Bruce Jette
President and CEO, Innvistra, LLC
Former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology

Sarah Kreps, John L. Wetherill Professor
Cornell University, Department of Government

3:30 – 4:45 PanelIntegrating Ethics into Technology Design 

Beverly Thompson, Senior Scientist
Leidos AI/ML Accelerator

Bartlett Russell, Program Manager

Joe Chapa, Chief Responsible AI Ethics Officer
United States Air Force