Lethal Autonomous Weapon System

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A Lethal Autonomous Weapon System is an lethal weapon system that is an autonomous weapon system.



  • The Economist | Trying to restrain the robots https://www.economist.com/node/21757464
    • QUOTE: ... Which brings back one of the biggest problems that advocates of bans and controls have to face. Arms control requires verification, and this will always be a vexed issue when it comes to autonomy. “The difference between an mq-9 Reaper and an autonomous version is software, not hardware,” says Michael Horowitz of the University of Pennsylvania. “It would be extremely hard to verify using traditional arms-control techniques.” The urge to restrict the technology before it is widely fielded, and used, is understandable. If granting weapons ever more autonomy turns out, in practice, to yield a military advantage, and if developed countries see themselves in wars of national survival, rather than the wars of choice they have waged recently, past practice suggests that today’s legal and ethical restraints may fall away. States are likely to sacrifice human control for self-preservation, says General Barrons. “You can send your children to fight this war and do terrible things, or you can send machines and hang on to your children.” Other people’s children are other people’s concern


  • (Wallach, 2017) ⇒ Wendell Wallach. (2017). “Toward a Ban on Lethal Autonomous Weapons: Surmounting the Obstacles.” In: Communications of the ACM Journal, 60(5). doi:10.1145/2998579
    • QUOTE: The short-term benefits of LAWS could be far outweighed by long-term consequences. For example, a robot arms race would not only lower the barrier to accidentally or intentionally start new wars, but could also result in a pace of combat that exceeds human response time and the reflective decision-making capabilities of commanders. Small low-cost drone swarms could turn battlefields into zones unfit for humans. The pace of warfare could escalate beyond meaningful human control. Military leaders and soldiers alike are rightfully concerned that military service will be expunged of any virtue.

      In concert with the compelling legal and ethical considerations LAWS pose for IHL, unpredictability and risk concerns suggest the need for a broad prohibition. To be sure, even with a ban, bad actors will find LAWS relatively easy to assemble, camouflage, and deploy. The Great Powers, if they so desire, will find it easy to mask whether a weapon system has the capability of functioning autonomously.

      The difficulties in effectively enforcing a ban are perhaps the greatest barrier to be overcome in persuading states that LAWS are unacceptable. People and states under threat perceive advanced weaponry as essential for their immediate survival. The stakes are high. No one wants to be at a disadvantage in combating a foe that violates a ban. And yet, violations of the ban against the use of biological and chemical weapons by regimes in Iraq and in Syria have not caused other states to adopt these weapons.