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Debating Autonomous Weapon Systems, Their Ethics, and Their Regulation Under International Law

Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, Karen Yeung, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation, and Technology (Oxford University Press, July 2017), Chapter 45

Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-553

American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2017-21

22 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2017 Last revised: 20 Oct 2017

Kenneth Anderson

American University - Washington College of Law

Matthew C. Waxman

Columbia Law School

Date Written: February 28, 2017

Abstract

An international public debate over the law and ethics of autonomous weapon systems (AWS) has been underway since 2012, with those urging legal regulation of AWS under existing principles and requirements of the international law of armed conflict, on the one side, in argument with opponents who favor, instead, a preemptive international treaty ban on all such weapons, on the other. This Chapter provides an introduction to this international debate, offering the main arguments on each side. These include disputes over defining an AWS, the morality and law of automated targeting and target selection by machine, and the interaction of humans and machines in the context of lethal weapons of war. Although the Chapter concludes that a categorical ban on AWS is unjustified morally and legally — favoring the law of armed conflict’s existing case-by-case legal evaluation — it offers an exposition of arguments on each side of the AWS issue.

Notes: This Chapter was principally drafted in 2015 and reflects developments only up to that point. The Chapter appears in final form in the Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation, and Technology (July 2017). This final galley pdf appears by permission of OUP.

Keywords: autonomous weapon systems, AWS, robotic weapons, Killer Robot, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, IHL, targeting, meaningful human control, technology, regulation, emerging technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence, AI

JEL Classification: K33, O32, O33, O38

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Kenneth and Waxman, Matthew C., Debating Autonomous Weapon Systems, Their Ethics, and Their Regulation Under International Law (February 28, 2017). Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, Karen Yeung, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation, and Technology (Oxford University Press, July 2017), Chapter 45; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-553; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2017-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2978359

Kenneth Anderson (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Matthew C. Waxman

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States
212-854-0592 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Matthew_Waxman

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