Core Programmatic Clusters
The Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics will take you on a starship to explore and colonize other planets; enhance you so that what you thought was essential to your humanity is replaced with technologically engineered elements; engage you in war games fought with drone and cyber attacks that violate the traditions of just warfare. Why? So that you confront in real time and in realistic settings and in provocative thought experiments the extensive ethical challenges that characterize or will characterize the 21st century, to prepare you to be an ethical participant in creating the world in which you will live and not a bewildered bystander.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was ethically mismanaged, how can we ethically handle the next pandemic or public health emergency? How can we get high schoolers to take ethical considerations seriously when they interact with each other, whether in person or on digital devices? Is there a way to infuse university education in all fields with ethical considerations that will carry over into practice when the students enter careers? The Lincoln Center is engaged in work on all of these issues and many more.
The Lincoln Center supports innovative, collaborative and multidisciplinary research on contemporary issues that affect humanity at large and whose solutions transcend both disciplinary and domestic boundaries.
The Lincoln Center instills insight to good intentions, ethical considerations and practical and theoretical knowledge into functional focus in areas that will determine the fate of the human race and the planet as well as the quality of life of those on whom its work impacts: students, researchers, innovators, engineers, healthcare providers, government officials and public policy makers at local, state, and national levels, business leaders, and the general public.
Some of its key programmatic areas are the following:
In 1820, the United States was a country of small communities. By 1870, it was a nation of monopolies and trusts, the American Midwest was no longer a massive midcontinental wetlands but a growing agricultural powerhouse, and Chicago was becoming a global city. Much of this reflected the rise of a single technology: the railroad. The human benefits and costs of these changes were significant; the related ethical, legal, and governance challenges potent and unpredictable. Today, we face not one, but five, emerging technology systems of great power: nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, information and communication technology, and applied cognitive science. Together, they are reshaping nature and our world in ways we don’t even realize, much less understand. Right now, we’re flailing around blindly; the Lincoln Center, on the other hand, is beginning to build the capability for reasoned ethical response. We have pulled Engineering, Law, and Public Policy together to explore development of new institutions to manage emerging technologies. We are building a new generation of technologist, grounded in sustainable engineering, where our experts have written the first textbooks. We have created the Consortium for Emerging Technology, Military Operations, and National Security, a multi-University research consortium grappling with the technologies, from lethal autonomous robots to biological systems to ray weapons, emerging from the military and security domains. These are first steps towards our ultimate goal: to help understand and act on the ethical implications of the technologies and systems that have made the Earth the first terraformed planet in the known universe.
HSNI flu. The resurgence of untreatable TB in India, London and elsewhere. Katrina! In 2009 in the richest country on Earth over 50 million people had no health insurance. The rise of synthetic biology means that making new viruses and bacteria, or rebuilding old plague germs, can be done in garages. Meanwhile, human enhancement is not science fiction, but rather front page material. In healthcare and public health the accelerating changes in science and technology, and the globalization of human culture, have left our existing ethical frameworks far behind. In response, the Lincoln Center has begun several innovative initiatives. We are, for example, creating the fundamental principles, in the form of a basic workable code for responders and medical practitioners, on how to ethically address major public health emergencies such as a major flu pandemic or natural disasters. We are also putting the “applied” into “applied medical ethics” by working with St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU, and others to build the Arizona Bioethics Network (ABN) that will integrate ethical training into health and medical service delivery and the continuing professional education of health care providers in new and exciting ways. The Lincoln Center is poised to become the national “go to” center for creating ethical public health response systems and healthcare ethics training for those in the field that is able responsibly to engage the evolving and unpredictable future in the various fields of medicine and healthcare delivery. The Center will also become the leader in taking up the ethical challenges central to defining the human in an age when technology is making the human itself a product of intentional human design.
Education today is essentially the same as it was in the monastic age when the University first arose. Read. Discuss. Write. The professor knows; the student learns. But this model is not just fragile; it is increasingly dysfunctional and unethical because students are not receiving the learning experiences they require successfully to manage the increasing complex and contingent environments they experience. It is not just that current education methods are obsolete; student cognitive patterns are changing in unpredictable ways. The best students operate within cognitive systems that are inaccessible to most of their professors, while the less prepared students fall further behind from the beginning. What is required is a thorough rethinking of the education framework from an ethical point of view that takes the content to be taught and the learner’s cognitive capacities and accessibility as crucial factors. It is necessary to move from the mass education model that was appropriate in the 1800’s to one that can ethically educate students to flourish in this digitally driven century. Recognizing this challenge, as a first step, the Lincoln Center is supporting the development of ethics games and teaching tools for modern software platforms that engage students in real world problems like how to ethically manage limited resources, or how to take joint action against global climate change.
The Lincoln Center has pioneered a Teaching Fellows Program that assists college professors in any discipline to remodel or develop courses within their major fields to include integrated ethics components. The Lincoln Center’s conception of involving ethics throughout the ASU curriculum is not to focus on a specific course, but to facilitate course-building by those who are experts in their disciplines and who recognize the need to integrate meaningful ethics education within the courses that students on career paths in their disciplines take. Consequently, the ethics most relevant to a chosen field of study becomes an integral part of the student’s learning experience and not an appendix that can be discarded upon commitment to pursuing a career in the field.
The Lincoln Center also is engaged in the ethics education of high schoolers in creative and engaging ways including contests that require the students to not only master the technology of a new device or digital platform, but also to understand its likely unethical use and how to combat it in a constructive and ethically effective way.
Among the most fundamental ethical challenges humanity faces in the foreseeable future —all matters of dignity and equity—are those that by tradition have been the domain of the humanities and social sciences and that even today do not lend themselves to analyses not underpinned by value laden assumptions. Addressing these challenges, which include immigration for purposes of seeking employment or political enfranchisement and participation, ethnic and gender discrimination, poverty, climate change with its implications for resources fundamental to human existence, requires us to explore the moral and intellectual orientations of cultures that by tradition we have either overlooked, or, for whatever reasons, relegated to the margins of interest and relevance. These challenges are not simple matters of national jurisdiction or economics. They force us, ultimately, to come at the world whole, to approach it as an organism and to view each member of its human population as presumptively equipollent, that is, of equal weight in any distributive calculus. These assumptions underlie the Lincoln Center’s support for translation of the texts of other cultures for access by speakers and readers of English only, for the study of the efficacy in human terms of privatizing social institutions have traditionally been the domain of governments pursuing their citizens’ commonweal, for exercising and enforcing national sovereignty, and, finally, for examining strategies to reconcile those who have perpetrated and those who have suffered infringements on human dignity, including poverty, brutalization and systematic murder.
People talk a lot about sustainability, where social equity, economic stability, and environmental quality are balanced to produce a high quality of life for all. But it is not at all clear what that means in practice. In large part, this is because in the real world there is not broad agreement on what the future should be, or how we should get there. Thus, for example, there is wide disagreement in society about how aggressively climate change should be addressed, or how the existence of an endangered species should be balanced against jobs. The activist approach assumes that a particular ethical perspective is either universally accepted, or can be forced on society, but this tends to result in fragile and unworkable solutions. The Lincoln Center is exploring these issues by looking at sustainability ethics in the context of particular domains or problems. Thus, for example, the Lincoln Center is supporting research on sustainable engineering as a way to get all engineering to be more sensitive to environmental and social considerations, and the development of games in the classroom as a vehicle for extending the awareness and usefulness of sustainability ethics for students. Future work will, among other things, include the “Starship Program”. Working with NASA and others, this initiative will build a graduate educational program around the thought experiment of converting earth-bound humans into spacefarers facing a bewildering array of technical, cultural, governance, and ethical problems.
From George R. Lucas, Jr, Distinguished Chair of Ethics, U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) & Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey, CA):
"For more than a decade, the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics has provided innovative leadership in engaging the most challenging moral issues of our age. Its world-renowned interdisciplinary faculty, appointed jointly in the Center and through the schools and departments of a renowned graduate research university, span the spectrum of academic and professional disciplines. Their collaboration on areas ranging from biomedical research to warfare and technological innovation has had a national and international impact on educators, political leaders, and policy makers as well as the general public through conferences, seminars and international symposia and their annual programs at the prestigious Chautauqua Institute in New York. Through the vision and generosity of the Lincoln family, and the intellectual leadership of the Center’s director, Dr. Peter French, the Lincoln Center has had an immeasurable impact on the moral conscience of our nation."