November 14, 2017

CNAS Press Note: Governmental Meetings on Lethal Autonomous Weapons

Washington, November 14 – This week member states begin discussions at the United Nations on lethal autonomous weapons systems – weapons that would choose their own targets. Paul Scharre, Director of the CNAS Technology and National Security Program, is in Geneva, Switzerland, attending the UN meetings and has written a press note on governmental conversations on these weapons. Scharre is the author of the forthcoming book, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War.

The full press note is below:

Automation has long been used in weapons, dating back to the Gatling gun in the American Civil War. Over time, militaries have incorporated more automation into weapons, incrementally offloading various tasks to machines. Today rapid advances in artificial intelligence and autonomy have brought humanity to the brink of a new threshold in war. Nations are incorporating ever-more autonomous robotic systems into their militaries around the globe, raising the specter of fully autonomous weapons that could engage targets on their own without human oversight. Lethal autonomous weapons raise difficult legal, moral, ethical, and strategic issues, and nations have formed a Group of Governmental Experts to address these concerns. Diplomatic progress is moving slowly, however. Entering their fourth years of meetings, nations still do not yet have a working definition of “autonomous weapon.” Meanwhile, autonomy and artificial intelligence continues to advance. 

Scharre is available for interviews. To arrange one, please contact Neal Urwitz at 202-457-9409 or


  • Paul Scharre

    Executive Vice President and Director of Studies

    Paul Scharre is the Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at CNAS. He is the award-winning author of Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence...