Accountability and Decision Making in Autonomous Warfare: Who is Responsible?

Amos N. Guiora, Accountability and Decision Making in Autonomous Warfare: Who is Responsible?, 2017 Utah L. Rev. (Mar. 2017 Forthcoming).

University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 202

30 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2017 Last revised: 7 Mar 2017

See all articles by Amos N. Guiora

Amos N. Guiora

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: February 17, 2017

Abstract

Who is the enemy? How can you distinguish between the civilians and the noncivilians? The same people who come and work in the bases at daytime, they just want to shoot and kill you at nighttime. So how can you distinguish between the two? The good or the bad? All of them looked the same.

This Article addresses the use of autonomous weapons systems (“AWS”). This Article only concerns itself with AWS used for offensive purposes. That is distinct from defensive weapons systems, including Israel’s Iron Dome2 and U.S. missile defense systems.3 Similarly, this Article does not address use of AWS for purposes of neutralizing Improvised Explosive Devices (“IED”) or evacuating a wounded soldier.

The use of AWS potentially minimizes risks to soldiers — at least in the short term. It suggests sleek technology. The dead are a hazy visual on a screen. It is antiseptic, as neither the smell of burning flesh nor the sound of agony can be heard by those programming the AWS or those sitting behind a screen observing the effects of a “hit.” Autonomous warfare has also been positively portrayed in Hollywood movies; technological sophistication inherently possesses an undeniable “cool” factor that is engaging, engrossing, and compelling. However, the positive lens with which it is viewed through Hollywood is a limited glimpse of its role.

Weapons created for the purpose of autonomously determining when the nation-state can kill a human being raises profoundly important questions regarding humanity, ethics, and defense. While the use of force by the nation-state is regulated, whether by international law or rules of engagement, the introduction of AWS challenges the notion of whether — and at what point — proposed decision making should be removed from human control and judgment.

Keywords: Autonomous weapons systems, accountability, drone warfare, international law, command responsibility, operational counterterrorism, targeting decision making, future warfare

Suggested Citation

Guiora, Amos N., Accountability and Decision Making in Autonomous Warfare: Who is Responsible? (February 17, 2017). Amos N. Guiora, Accountability and Decision Making in Autonomous Warfare: Who is Responsible?, 2017 Utah L. Rev. (Mar. 2017 Forthcoming).; University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 202. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2919663

Amos N. Guiora (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

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