Asleep at the Switch? How Killer Robots Become a Force Multiplier of Military Necessity

Ian Kerr & Katie Szilagyi, "Asleep at the switch? How killer robots become a force multiplier of military necessity" in Ryan M. Calo, Michael Froomkin, Ian Kerr, eds, Robot Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub Ltd, 2016) 333.

34 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2019

See all articles by Ian R. Kerr

Ian R. Kerr

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Katie Szilagyi

University of Ottawa

Date Written: January 29, 2016

Abstract

Lethal autonomous weapons — machines that might one day target and kill people without human intervention or oversight — are gaining attention on the world stage. While their development, deployment and perceived superiority over human soldiers are presumed to be inevitable, this book chapter challenges the received view, arguing that the adoption of these technologies are indeed evitable. After canvassing the state of the art in robotic warfare and the military advantages that autonomous weapons confer, the authors aim to scratch below the surface level success of robotic warfare and consider the drastic effects its implementation can have on international humanitarian law, adherence to humanitarian principles, and notions of technological neutrality. International humanitarian law governs the use of particular weapons and advancing technologies to ensure that the imperative of humanity modulates how war is waged. Based on the interest of protecting civilians, military actions are therefore restricted through compliance with humanitarian principles, including proportionality between collateral injuries and military advantages, discrimination between combatants and non-combatants, and military necessity for reaching concrete objectives.

This chapter suggests that serious and catastrophic consequences become foreseeable when robots are given full autonomy to pull the trigger in complicated and context-dependent situations, and that technological neutrality is not a safe presumption. The authors also argue that when a disruptive technology changes the nature of what is possible, there is a corresponding expansion in the scope of inclusion for what can prospectively be perceived of as “necessary,” allowing lethal autonomous robots to become a force multiplier of military necessity. Ultimately, the authors ask their readers to consider the full and real consequences of a future with lethal autonomous robots, when the power to implement them lies in the hands of those who have not fully come to terms with their implications.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, AI, lethal autonomous robots, robotic warfare, autonomous weapons, international humanitarian law

Suggested Citation

Kerr, Ian R. and Szilagyi, Katie, Asleep at the Switch? How Killer Robots Become a Force Multiplier of Military Necessity (January 29, 2016). Ian Kerr & Katie Szilagyi, "Asleep at the switch? How killer robots become a force multiplier of military necessity" in Ryan M. Calo, Michael Froomkin, Ian Kerr, eds, Robot Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub Ltd, 2016) 333. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3395409 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3395409

Ian R. Kerr (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada
613-562-5800 (Phone)

Katie Szilagyi

University of Ottawa ( email )

Ottawa, Ontario
Canada

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