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

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

I. THE PROBLEM

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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