Autonomous Weapons: Are You Sure These are Killer Robots? Can We Talk About It?

The Army Lawyer 1 (April 2014)

7 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2014

See all articles by Shane Reeves

Shane Reeves

United States Military Academy, West Point

William Johnson

Government of the United States of America - The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School

Date Written: April 30, 2014

Abstract

The rise of autonomous weapons is creating understandable concern for the international community as it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen with the technology. This uncertainty has led some to advocate for a preemptive ban on the technology. Yet the emergence of a new means of warfare is not a unique phenomenon and is assumed within the Law of Armed Conflict. Past attempts at prohibiting emerging technologies use as weapons — such as aerial balloons in Declaration IV of the 1899 Hague Convention — have failed as a prohibitive regime denies the realities of warfare. Further, those exploring the idea of autonomous weapons are sensitive not only to their legal obligations, but also to the various ethical and moral questions surrounding the technology. Rather than attempting to preemptively ban autonomous weapons before understanding the technology’s potential, efforts should be made to pool the collective intellectual resources of scholars and practitioners to develop a road forward. Perhaps this would be the first step to a more comprehensive and assertive approach to addressing the other pressing issues of modern warfare.

Keywords: autonomous weapons, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, human rights, means and methods of warfare, war, armed conflict, killer robots, robots, aerial bombardment, targeting, international law, world war II, Hague Conference, Human Rights Watch, Losing Humanity

JEL Classification: K10, K33

Suggested Citation

Reeves, Shane and Johnson, William, Autonomous Weapons: Are You Sure These are Killer Robots? Can We Talk About It? (April 30, 2014). The Army Lawyer 1 (April 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2427923

Shane Reeves (Contact Author)

United States Military Academy, West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

William Johnson

Government of the United States of America - The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School ( email )

600 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903-1781
United States

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