Autonomous weapons systems and changing warfare
Foto: Dr Ingvild Bode (Senior Lecturer an der University of Kent)
Weapons systems with an increasing number of autonomous features are emerging as game-changing technologies of (future) warfare. In contrast to remote-controlled platforms such as drones, autonomous weapons systems (AWS) use data from on-board sensors to navigate and, potentially, identify and engage targets without human input. The development of such AWS will see humans move further and further away from immediate decision-making on the use of force. AWS represent a weaponization of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This implies various complex forms of human-machine interaction and a drastically distributed agency, decisive parts of which will likely not be accessible to human reasoning due to the “black-box” nature of algorithmic processing. This looming absence of meaningful human agency in warfare makes scrutinising the challenges associated with AWS a matter of great importance. The lecture provides an overview of diverse autonomous functions in weapon systems, who is developing them and why, as well as risks associated with their development for international peace and security. This includes portraying the main tenets of the ongoing debate among state representatives under the auspices of the UN Convention on the Prohibition of Certain Conventional Weapons (UN-CCW). In particular, the lecture considers how autonomous weapons systems adversely affect current norms governing the use-of-force.