The Future of War: The Ethical Potential of Leaving War to Lethal Autonomous Weapons

AI and Society 35 (1):273-282 (2020)
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Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs) are robotic weapons systems, primarily of value to the military, that could engage in offensive or defensive actions without human intervention. This paper assesses and engages the current arguments for and against the use of LAWs through the lens of achieving more ethical warfare. Specific interest is given particularly to ethical LAWs, which are artificially intelligent weapons systems that make decisions within the bounds of their ethics-based code. To ensure that a wide, but not exhaustive, survey of the implications of employing such ethical devices to replace humans in warfare is taken into account, this paper will engage on matters related to current scholarship on the rejection or acceptance of LAWs—including contemporary technological shortcomings of LAWs to differentiate between targets and the behavioral and psychological volatility of humans—and current and proposed regulatory infrastructures for developing and using such devices. After careful consideration of these factors, this paper will conclude that only ethical LAWs should be used to replace human involvement in war, and, by extension of their consistent abilities, should remove humans from war until a more formidable discovery is made in conducting ethical warfare.

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Steven Umbrello
Università di Torino

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