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Release Date: Monday, March 4, 2013 4:24 PM
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Sholnn Freeman
Communications Specialist
Warfare and the Humanities: Ethics of the Robotics Revolution

The Division of Humanities at Howard University Announces Its Spring 2013 Common Text and Collaborative Research Events

P. W. Singer

WASHINGTON (February 28, 2013) – The Division of Humanities at Howard University presents its annual Common Text project and series of Collaborative Research Roundtables for spring 2013. 

This year’s organizers have planned a series of events to highlight both moral and ethical issues raised in the Division’s featured common text:  P. W. Singer’s Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. Singer’s well-timed work examines unforeseen moral dilemmas stemming from increased reliance upon the use of predator drones in warfare. The best-selling book explores how science fiction has started to play out on modern-day battlefields, with robots used more and more in war.

With continued emphasis on the theme of moral revolutions for both common text and common research initiatives, the Humanities Division faculty have identified Singer’s book as a springboard for original research projects as well as a catalyst for critical inquiry and dialogue.

Following is a list of scheduled events:

Thursday, February 28

Film screening and discussion (6 p.m.– 9 p.m. in Room 105 Locke Hall)
A spirited discussion of the 2004 science-fiction action film, I, Robot and the PBS documentary, Rise of the Drones will be moderated by Dr. Greg Carr, chair of African American Studies and Dr. Gregory Jenkins, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Thursday, March 7
Roundtable Discussion (12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. in Conference Room A of the Carnegie Building)                
Five panelists who are experts in related fields of study will discuss the ethics and politics of robotics along with present and possible long-range implications of robotic warfare and random surveillance of civilians. Roundtable participants include: 

Dr. Morris Davis, School of Law — “Law and War: The Evolution of Legal and Moral Constraints on Armed Conflict”

Dr. Todd Shurn, Department of Systems and Computer Science — “Advancing Robot Utility through Culturally Appropriate Robot Personalities"

Dr. John Tharakan, College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences — “Appropriate Technology, Survival Ethics and Social Justice”

Dr. Alem Hailu, African Studies — “Radical Ideologies, Bombs and Drones in Africa: Non-traditional Warfare and the Challenges of Human Security”

Dr. Greg Hampton, Department of English — “Slaves and Robots Versus History and Reality: Heeding the Cautionary Tales of Science Fiction” 

March 28
Keynote Address: (11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Blackburn Center)
Dr. Morris Davis, Howard University School of Law, whose areas of specialization include military ethics, the law of war, and drone warfare.
Common Text Symposium: (1 p.m. – 5 p.m. in the Browsing Room of Founders Library)
Two groups of student panelists will present their research ideas inspired by P. W. Singer’s book. Significant time will be allotted for a Q&A period. Panelists will grapple with the far-reaching implications of what it means to be a warrior or a soldier and access the many moral, legal and religious codes that this new type of warfare has changed.  

For additional information, contact Dr. Vernessa White-Jackson, chair of the Division of Humanities, at or 202-806-4119.

Sponsored by the Division of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences.


Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 30 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at

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