It has long been the case that behind every military weapon there is a brilliant but perhaps misguided scientist. One Prof. Benjamin Kuipers is therefore to be commended in his outspoken stance against accepting military funding of any kind.
Kuipers, a computer scientist based in the University of Texas in Austin, vowed never to accept military funding following the completion of his PhD in the late seventies. Confronted with the development of smart cruise missiles as his only funding opportunity, he made his decision based solely on ethical beliefs, to pass up the offer and wait for funding from a non-military organisation. Though the ethics of that particular scenario were black and white, it was Kuipers’ decision to continue refusing military funding of any kind, no matter how benevolent, that has seen him become one of the scientific community’s most notable ethicists. It’s understandable to most of us why any scientist or engineer will avoid involvement in weapon technology, but opting out completely from an organisation such as the US military when they have been responsible for many socially beneficial advances in technology (the internet, artificial intelligence) has set Kuipers apart from his peers. Put in his words:
“It’s a testimony, and a testimony has to be clear and visible to be useful. Certainly there is virtuous research funded by military agencies. But it (accepting seemingly benign military funding) doesn’t send a clear message to others, and I want to do that.”
This hard attitude has had to withstand some extremely tempting research offers though until this day Kuipers has stood firm in the belief that a stance like this is needed now more than ever in a world of increasing tensions between the worlds most powerful and volatile states. Most recently, Benjamin Kuipers presented a lecture entitled ‘Why I don’t take military funding’ on behalf of INESGR (International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility) in the University of Copenhagen.