“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the
clearer we should see through it.” – Richter
The Hourglass Initiative, Inc. is a non-profit worldwide NGO organized by the scientific community to:
(a) Promote codes of ethical conduct, education, and outreach efforts among scientists, engineers, and technologists to limit the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction (“WMD”s),
(b) To develop and employ secure web-based anonymous technologies and other methods to allow scientists and others concerned with WMD proliferation to whistle-blow on such activity internationally,
(c) Support and encourage scientists, researchers, journalists, and others to investigate and expose illicit WMD activities.
With rapid advances in biotechnology and with greater dissemination of biological, nuclear, and chemical weapons research and technology, the ability for unethical scientists to manufacture weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has increased exponentially in the past few years and will continue for the foreseeable future.
A decade ago, the complexity of manufacturing WMDs required huge infrastructure and funding that only governments (and the corporations they contracted with) could exclusively provide. The democratization of scientific technology and information now means governments no longer may exclusively sponsor or sanction the process of creating devastating weapons that can be readily employed against civilian targets.
Today, with revolutionary advances in biotechnology and the illicit trade in nuclear and chemical weapons manufacturing and dispersal methods, scientists have unrivalled opportunities to create and deploy nuclear, biological, and/or chemical weapons on behalf of rogue nations and terrorists groups.
A core mission of the intelligence community, of course, has been to identify such threats as these scientific capabilities continue to grow. But agencies have limited scientific resources (especially lacking personnel with sufficient training and specialized knowledge of emerging threats.) They have largely focused their efforts on prominent “rogue” governments and terror organizations. So far, they have had mixed results identifying such threats: (i.e., accurately assessing the status of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq; discovering nuclear weapons research facilities in Syria and Iran; unveiling the former Soviet Union’s enormous biological weapons capabilities, etc.)
Equally troubling is how these intelligence agencies have, in large part, been unsuccessful in early detection of “independent” threats: (i.e., the release of nerve gas on Tokyo subways; the anthrax attack that shut-down Senate office buildings; the scientific consortium in Pakistan that sold nuclear bomb-making instructions and precision technology to numerous countries.)
As destructive technology becomes simpler to develop and deploy, scientists must join the frontlines in the battle to protect the public from those in their discipline whose intention is to cause great harm. Scientists have the unique vantage-point, expertise, and responsibility to insure illicit activities are monitored, contained, and disclosed.
Standards, codes of ethics, and self-regulation are not antithetical to innovative research and professional scientific practice. For example, in the medical and health sciences, doctors and practitioners have, for millennia, been taught to embrace the Hippocratic Oath: essentially “First, Do No Harm.” Ethical standards of conduct have evolved as the bedrock of medical culture and practice. Standardized codes, regulations, and accepted practices guide all medical research and define professionalism. These mandate that those who intentionally cause harm practicing medicine must be sanctioned and punished. Enforcement and sanctions, overseen by review boards of professional medical organizations, are at the core of maintaining successful conduct. That such standards are widely understood and expected by the broad social community substantially encourages compliance by medical practitioners and researchers. .
Scientific and engineering societies also have established varied and sophisticated codes of ethical standards and practices. In sharp contrast to medical standards, most engineers and scientists are not introduced to significant codes of conduct until reaching post-graduate study (if at all.) Ethical concepts and expectations of ethically-compliant behavior are rarely introduced early in the education of scientists and engineers. There is little knowledge and expectation in the general community that scientists and engineers require or must adhere to ethical standards of behavior. Scientific societies that promote ethical guidelines lack substantial means of sanctioning scientists who ignore such codes.
Some scientists have historically resisted ethical constraints as antithetical to open and unfettered enquiry. Yet many leading scientists, including the late Sir Joseph Rotblat, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, have embraced the urgent need for enforceable codes of conduct. While individual scientists with terrorist aspirations are unlikely to be deterred by any “codes” no matter how well-defined, having ethical standards widely inculcated in the broad scientific community may well deter others on the periphery of such work. More significantly, a society understanding clearly-defined standards will encourage scientists and engineers with suspicions about unsavory behavior to help uncover and report potential threats to their peers.
Like many concerned scientists and terrorism experts, we are responding to a world in which scientific discovery has and will fuel growing terrorist threats:
Many other valuable organizations and institutions focus on specific threats and on fostering international conventions to restrict nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons proliferation. As technology allows more scientists to create powerful weapons of mass destruction with less effort, the situation requires an entity, led by and for scientists, to identify and expose those intent on doing public harm.
Hourglass Initiative activities fall into three main areas:
Ø To promulgate, support, and publicize clear codes of scientific ethical responsibility. As scientists become increasingly able to change the world they must embrace greater responsibilities protecting it. We will work within the scientific, engineering, and educational community to help identify existing and potential threats. We will develop programs and curriculum introducing codes of ethics at an early point in the educational career of scientists and engineers. The broader public must be aware of the ethical responsibilities scientists face. We will encourage peer-review certification and other methods to enhance scientists promote and comply with codes of ethics.
Ø To use and develop new technologies, including web-based “Wikileads” approach, to encourage scientists and others to safely and anonymously submit information on possible illicit behavior regarding the manufacture of WMDs to our investigation team. In addition, we will also develop methods to reward scientists and others who successfully identify and deter significant perpetrators of such proscribed behavior.
Ø To research and investigate allegations of illicit efforts by scientists, technicians, and engineers to create such devastating weapons technologies and to subject such efforts to public disclosure.
The Hourglass Initiative works within the scientific, engineering, academic, and journalistic communities to deter those who would create weapons of mass destruction. We will continue to collaborate and engage non-proliferation organizations, NGOs, regulatory entities, educational institutions, and others to develop curricula and to share expertise. We will continue to partner with security, encryption, and privacy entities to develop and enhance technical methods for assuring anonymity and safety for whistle-blowers.
The Hourglass Project will be a non-profit 501(c) (3) foundation, incorporated in New York State, that accepts support from individuals and organizations concerned with and knowledgeable about these increasing threats. To avoid conflict of interest, the Foundation will not accept funding from any government agencies or entities with partisan and/or nationalist agendas. The Foundation will work with anyone willing and able to indentify WMD threats and to help educate and enlist scientists and others in this effort. The Foundation will, as appropriate, work with other organizations involved in arms control, nonproliferation, and in advancing ethical scientific behavior to deter, control, and hopefully eliminate WMD threats.
For further information, please contact:
41 West 83rd Street, Suite 9A
New York, NY 10024
email: dan @ dubno.com
(c) 2008-2010 Hourglass Initiative, Inc.