The Defense Science Board recently identified five “stretch problems”—goals that are “hard-but-not-too-hard” and that have a purpose of accelerating the process of bringing a new autonomous capability into widespread application:
Latest in Autonomous Weapon Systems
Editor's Note: Autonomous weapons systems are often vilified as “killer robots” that will slay thousands without compunction – arguments that the systems’ proponents often dismiss with a wave of their hands. Adam Saxton, a research intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies , argues that the picture is neither black nor white. Autonomous weapons do pose ethical issues in the conduct of warfare, but often the arguments for or against them caricature the weapons and misunderstand their actual use.
Why the Prohibition on Permanently Blinding Lasers is Poor Precedent for a Ban on Autonomous Weapon Systems
Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School have released their latest report regarding autonomous weapon systems: Precedent for Preemption: The Ban on Blinding Lasers as a Model for a Killer Robots Prohibition. While new regulation is needed, the report fails to address crucial distinctions between the successful ban on permanently blinding lasers and the proposed prohibition on autonomous weapon systems.
In writing about autonomous weapon systems (AWS) and the law of armed conflict, we have several times observed the similarities between programming AWS and programming other kinds of autonomous technologies, as well as the similarities of ethical issues arising in each. Machine decision-making is gradually being deployed in emerging technologies as different as self-driving cars and highly automated aircraft, and many more will join them in such areas as elder-care machines and robotic surgery.
The Wall Street Journal over the weekend ran this essay adapted from our new book, The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones---Confronting A New Age of Threat. It opens,
You walk into your shower and see a spider.
The New York Times has a useful article today on autonomous weapon systems and debate about their regulation. The issue is also on the discussion agenda this week in Geneva for the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapon. The Times article says:
Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield.
We are pleased to share our recently published article on law and autonomous weapons, on which we teamed up with our good friend Daniel Reisner (formerly head of the Israel Defense Forces International Law Department).
Readings: The Diffusion of Drone Warfare: Industrial, Infrastructural and Organizational Constraints by Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli
Political science graduate students Andrea Gilli (European Union Institute, Florence) and Mauro Gilli (Northwestern University, Evanston) have posted a new and provocative paper to SSRN--"The Diffusion of Drone Warfare: Industrial, Infrastructural and Organizational Constraints."
I read this paper when first posted to SSRN some weeks back, but I waited to discuss it in a Readings post until I had talked through its themes with a few friends expert in this area.
Chatham House recently held a conference on autonomous military technologies, the focus of which was really the current debate regarding autonomous weapon systems. Kudos to Chatham House for leaning forward in this critical area and for bringing together the right mix of people for an engaging and productive conference.
There has certainly been much written about the controversy over autonomous weapons systems, but in my preparation for a Chatham House conference on autonomous weapons, I found one argument made by advocates of a ban on such weapons, however, that merits some close examination. These advocates make the point that there will be a robotics arms race that will result in development and deployment of autonomous weapons even if these weapons are not able to comply with international law. For example, here is a Human Rights Watc