6. UN Convention on CCW and all states shall prohibit developing or deploying lethal autonomous weapons.

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Rapporteurs: Erin Hunt and Gerardo Lebron Laboy, Mines Action Canada


Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs) refers to future weapons that would select their targets and engage (kill) based on their programming. They will be “autonomous” in the sense that they would not require human intervention to actuate (act or operate according to its programming).(1) Being solely algorithmic driven, LAWs will be able to kill without any human interference or oversight.

The following arguments have been offered in support of the development of LAWs:

LAWs technology could offer better military performance and thus enhance mission effectiveness
  • LAWs, being a product of robotics, could be faster, stronger, and have better endurance than human soldiers in every perspective, not being subject to fatigue.
  • Better environmental awareness; robotic sensors could provide better battlefield observation.
  • Higher and longer range precision: Also, given advanced sensor technology, LAWs could have better target precision and a longer range.
  • Better responsiveness: LAWs will not be subject to the uncertainty in situational awareness that participants in military operations may go through because of communication problems or sight or vision obstructions (fog of war). Through an interconnected system of multiple sensors and intelligence sources, LAWs could have the capacity to update instantly more information than humans and faster, which would enable better awareness of their surroundings.
  • Emotionless advantage: LAWs would not have emotions that cloud their judgement.
  • Self sacrificing nature: LAWs would not have a self-preservation tendency and thus could be used in self sacrificing manners if needed and appropriate.
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Adam Wynne

Check out this interesting article from the World Federalist Movement (Canada Chapter) on the United States reversing their position on the prohibition of landmines. Title: TakeAction: United States removes restrictions on landmine use: What should Canada do? Author: World Federalist Movement (Canada Chapter) Publication(s): World Federalist Movement (Canada Chapter) Date: 12 March 2020 Link: https://www.wfmcanada.org/2020/03/3345/ Article Excerpt(s): At the end of January, US President Donald Trump reversed the Obama-era ban on the use of landmines (other than in the defence of South Korea). The brief statement from the White House says, ” The Department of Defense has determined that restrictions… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Here is an interesting article on lethal autonomous weapons. It popped up on social media and seemed relevant to this project. Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-rights-killer-robots/nations-dawdle-on-agreeing-rules-to-control-killer-robots-in-future-wars-idUSKBN1ZG151 “Nations dawdle on agreeing rules to control ‘killer robots’ in future wars” by Nita Bhalla in Reuters [17 Janury 2020] Some excerpts: ” Countries are rapidly developing “killer robots” – machines with artificial intelligence (AI) that independently kill – but are moving at a snail’s pace on agreeing global rules over their use in future wars, warn technology and human rights experts. From drones and missiles to tanks and submarines, semi-autonomous weapons systems have been used for… Read more »

Richard Paul

https://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/3081583/autonomous-weapons-ai-war-google This is a related article discussing the issue of cyber weapons and how they might participate on the battlefield.

Tom Vargas

That’s an understatement, Richard. It’s about a woman who quit Google last year because of their military project. She says that AI can accidentally start a war.

Howard Wells

Original author: Zachary Fryer-Biggs, “Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots that Can Kill,” The Atlantic, Sept 3, 2019.

The U.S. Navy ‘s ship Sea Hunter patrols the oceans without a crew, looking for submarines that, one day, it may attack directly. nd the U.S. Army has a missile system that, without humans, can pick out vehicles to attack. So what do we think of such things? And what can we do about it? Here’s what Zachary Fryer-Biggs wrote in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/09/killer-robots-and-new-era-machine-driven-warfare/597130/

Ruth Needham

And Artificial Intelligence itself is supposed to be a real threat to humanity, according to some theorists. But maybe not quite as soon as killer robots.

Autonomous weapons that kill must be banned, insists UN chief 25 March 2019 Culture and Education UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged artificial intelligence (AI) experts meeting in Geneva on Monday to push ahead with their work to restrict the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, or LAWS, as they are also known. In a message to the Group of Governmental Experts, the UN chief said that “machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law”. No country or armed force is in favour of such… Read more »

Metta Spencer

Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs) are aptly called “killer robots,” though they don’t actually look like Arnold Schwartznegger. They decide whom to kill without consulting a person. You’d never want to get into a fight with one.