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Mrs. Ronda Dove
Administrative Assistant

P:  (540) 464-7361
F: (540) 464-7396

Center for Leadership & Ethics
VMI, Marshall Hall
500 Anderson Drive
Lexington, VA  24450

Schedule for 2016 Leadership Conference

Here are the program features and a highlight on some of our confirmed speakers:

DAY ONE March 7

Panel #1 Is Big Brother Alive and Well?

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed- no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.”
― George Orwell, “1984”
“Thanks to technological progress, Big Brother can now be almost as omnipresent as God.”
― Aldous Huxley

This discussion will examine the inherit tension between individual rights and national interests. What are the checks and balances on information sharing? What are the unintended consequences of well-meaning video and data collection such as public and private surveillance camera and retail buying habits? Has the wholesale collection of data by both government and businesses become the norm, and if so, should it be? When should we need to give our permission in a public or private space? What are our moral and ethical responses as citizens when this trust is violated? Are we less safe in terms of personal information and in our overall private lives?

Keynote Speaker

General (Ret) Keith Alexander, former Commander of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and former Director of the National Security Agency/Chief of Central Security Service (NSA/CSS)

As Commander, USCYBERCOM, the General oversaw the planning, coordination, and conduct of operations and defense of Department of Defense (DOD) computer networks as directed by U.S. Strategic Command. As Director, NSA/Chief, CSS, he led a DOD agency with national foreign intelligence, combat support, and U.S. national security information system protection responsibilities.

As a key senior leader of America’s cyber warriors, and the leader of the NSA when the Snowden disclosures were made public, Alexander is especially qualified to address conference attendees on the difficult leadership choices and ethical dilemmas faced by national leaders engaged in protecting American national security.

LUNCHwith Speaker

Christopher Sogohian, Principal Technologist with the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union

Panel #2 The Morality of Robotic Warfare

“To the question quis custodiet custodes -- Who will mount guard over our guardians, who will engineer the engineers? -- the answer is a bland denial that they need any supervision.”
― Aldous Huxley

This panel explores the geopolitical considerations as well as the human, ethical dilemmas of robotic warfare. A decade ago, the use of military drones and other unmanned robots was not part of the public consciousness. Does the displacement of human-to-human interaction in warfare call for new types of ethical questions and policies? Are these technological breakthroughs to be hailed or feared? What are the unintended consequences of artificial intelligence in a military operation?



Dinner with Speaker

Topic: What Happens When Robots Replace Jobs?

This topic covers the tension between technological innovation and individual interests. People have been concerned about machines taking the place of humans since the industrial revolution. In the present day, ATMs have replaced bank tellers; computers are already turning out basic news stories; robots are picking, packaging and dispensing pills at a hospital pharmacy; and computers are analyzing legal documents. What are the consequences of replacing ourselves with machines? How do we respond on both and individual and societal level?

Speaker TBA

DAY TWO March 8


 [All-Corps Event (joining our conference participants) - this entire body will be divided in half to make Group A and Group B]

  • Keynote speech - Groups A and B
  • Group A attends the Ethical Leadership Challenge, Group B attends a Panel Discussion
  • Groups will swap:  Group B attends Ethical Leadership Challenge, Group A attends a Panel Discussion
  • The panel discussion for group A will not be the same as for group B, they will be different.
  • Outside attendees who wish to attend both panels may do so. 


Goodall '66 and Family Leadership Speaker - All Attend (Cameron Hall)

Dr. Peter W. Singer is Strategist and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, founder of NeoLuddite, a technology advisory firm, the author of multiple award-winning books, and a contributing editor at Popular Science. He has been named by the Smithsonian Institution-National Portrait Gallery as one of the 100 "leading innovators in the nation," by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues, by Onalytica social media data analysis as one of the ten most influential voices in the world on cybersecurity, and by Foreign Policy to their Top 100 Global Thinkers List, of the people whose ideas most influenced the world that year. The former director of Brookings Institute’s 21st Century Center for Security and Intelligence, Singer is considered one of the world's preeminent experts on changes in 21st century warfare. He has consulted for the US Military, Defense Intelligence Agency, and FBI.

A renowned scholar on defense issues, especially the impact of technology on warfare, he is the author of a number of scholarly books and articles. In for Wired for War and Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, Singer’s astute insights into the impact of digital technologies and the accelerating role of robotics in warfare have received critical acclaim. His current book, Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War paints a plausible scenario of what war at sea, on land, in the air, space, and cyberspace will be like in the future. Dr. Singer will speak on morality in future war.

 Group A:  Ethical Leadership Challenge - morning

The Ethical Leadership Challenge is an interactive, reflective exercise involving 2 – 3 scenarios which will explore ethical dilemmas in national policy and in society and require active participation of attendees in conversation involving different viewpoints, and self-reflection on ethical leadership.

The sessions are designed to address our capability as a society to develop ethical practices that address new technology-driven challenges, and allow each participant to reflect on his or her personal ethical considerations and actions.

Group B: (Panel #3 Are Cyberattacks an Act of War?)

Moderator:  Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Smith Jr. ’79, Academic Dean,
                    Virginia Military Institute and former Deputy Commanding General of Army Cyber

This panel addresses ethical challenges that affect our national interests. Cyberattacks have dominated the news in the last few years, ranging from the Sony Pictures hack by North Korea, to China’s breach of several databases belonging to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management of sensitive data, including Social Security numbers, relating to more than 21 million people interviewed for government background checks. This moderated panel will explore new ethical questions that did not exist two decades ago: What is a cyberattack – vandalism, warfare or something else? When does hacking move from espionage to warfare? When, if ever, is it justified as self-defense? What should be our country’s response? How can we distinguish ourselves as leaders of integrity while staying ahead of constantly evolving capabilities?

 Confirmed panelists:

 •Panelist: Eric Jensen, associate professor of law at BYU School of Law who teaches and writes in the area of Public International Law, Criminal Law, The Law of Armed Conflict, International Criminal Law and National Security Law. He is a former Army JAG.

•Panelist: Phyllis Schneck, Ph.D., Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security.


After lunch, the groups trade locations and the group that attended the morning panel discussion will participate in the same Ethical Leadership Challenge as the other group. Those who participated in the morning Challenge will attend Panel #4.

Group A (Panel #4 Social Media Impact: The Good, Bad and Ugly)

Moderator:  Mark Bauerlein, Ph.D., Emory University 

Social media platforms have exposed humanity’s immense capacity for both good and evil. We now have the ability to advocate for causes through sites such as DonorChoose, GoFundMe and and Facebook and Twitter give a far-reaching voice to grassroots campaigns. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a good example of this. The Arab Spring is credited to spreading through Twitter. New small business ventures can engage in crowd funding through sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, eliminating traditional gatekeepers like banks and venture capital firms. We also have the ability to instantly urge boycotts and social shaming of businesses and individuals for unpopular beliefs; destroying careers and reputations on the basis of an out-of-context sound bite or Tweet. Teens and college students engage in cyber bullying on anonymous sites such as Yik Yak; and rumors, factually inaccurate statements and lack of journalistic oversight on blogs fuel divisive social commentary. Groups such as ISIS have shown the world that social media is easily co-opted for evil purposes.

How can we police ourselves when using these powerful platforms? Do we need to teach critical thinking and responsible use of social media in our K-12 schools? Should the platforms police themselves, such as Reddit does via its community of users model? At what point do issues of censorship and free speech come into play? How do we ethically use the power that social media provides individuals to effect social change?

Group B:  Ethical Leadership Challenge - afternoon



Conclusion:  With great power comes great responsibility

The integration and reliance on technology on both an individual and a national/global level has changed our lives and global politics in ways we could not have imagined even twenty years ago. Digital technologies have created a tremendous capacity for enhancing the common good, but have also exposed mankind’s flaws. By attending this conference, participants will become more aware of ethical individual use of technology, and inspired and active citizens to help guide national policies that leverage the immense power of the digital age.

Pre-Conference Resources

The conference website will have links to books, articles and TED talks that cover the use of technology and the inherent tension between national security and individual rights, hacking and cyberattacks, social media failures and triumphs, and the future of artificial intelligence.

Post Conference Resources

Both speakers and each panel discussion will be videotaped and shared online.