Voices from DARPA

Voices from DARPA

Episode 78: Introducing ELSI

April 30, 2024

As a global leader in innovation, DARPA starts an average of 50 new programs each year. These programs span a variety of technical disciplines to develop breakthrough technologies for national security, all of which have the potential to raise ethical, legal, and societal implication – or, ELSI – considerations.

Taking time to consider ELSI’s role in a program can contribute to the responsible development of emerging technologies by guiding innovation, maximizing the potential application space, and facilitating dialogue with future end-users, and the public, to ensure diverse perspectives and implications are considered. It can improve research by fostering conversations that identify unknowns, anticipate consequences, and make design decisions to maximize benefits and opportunities and minimize risks and harms.

In this episode of Voices from DARPA, we’ll hear from DARPA Director, Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, to explain the agency's perspective on those implications, as well as Dr. Bart Russell, deputy director of the Defense Sciences Office, on what it would mean to incorporate ELSI across the agency more formally. Finally, Dr. Rebecca Crootof, DARPA’s inaugural ELSI Visiting Scholar, will discuss her journey to the agency and her approach to developing a process to ensure that ELSI can inform — and even improve —DARPA programs.

That sounds like a lot of responsibility, influence, and potential impact – for some, maybe, too good to be true?

Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications of Emerging Technologies at DARPA


DARPA currently is seeking applicants for the 2025 ELSI Visiting Scholar. The deadline to apply is June 3, 2024.

Origin of the term ELSI: Three decades of ethical, legal, and social implications research: Looking back to chart a path forward

The piece references a class from Dr. Oona A. Hathaway