Latest in Autonomous Weapon Systems

Foreign Policy Essay

(Un)Dignified Killer Robots? The Problem with the Human Dignity Argument

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.


Autonomous Weapon Systems

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.

Autonomous Weapon Systems

Similar Ethical Dilemmas for Autonomous Weapon Systems and Autonomous Self-Driving Cars

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.

Autonomous Weapon Systems

NYT on Autonomous Weapons and Ways to Regulate Them

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.


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.

Targeted Killing: Drones

Reflections on the Chatham House Autonomy Conference

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.

Autonomous Weapon Systems

Autonomous Weapons: Is an Arms Race Really a Threat?

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

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