October 28, 2014

CNAS Announces "Ethical Autonomy" Project to Study Autonomous Robotic Systems and Military Policy

Washington, October 28 – The Center for a New American Security is pleased to announce a new project, “Ethical Autonomy.” The project will examine how trends towards increasingly autonomous robotic systems – including the technology commonly known as drones – will influence military policy and warfare around the world.

The project will be co-directed by Ben FitzGerald, Director of the Technology and National Security ProgramMichael C. Horowitz, Adjunct Senior Fellow and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and Paul Scharre, Fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative.

Please visit the project website available here: http://www.cnas.org/ethicalautonomy.

The growth in technologies such as self-driving cars and factory robots is already shaping the future of industrial production and commercial enterprises around the world. These developments will have significant consequences in the military realm as well. Increasingly autonomous unmanned systems will play a significant role in future conflicts, and the prospect of increased autonomy in weapons systems raises challenging legal, moral, ethical, policy and strategic stability issues. Nation-states and activists in the United States and abroad are already debating how advances in autonomy will influence warfare – and what, if anything, should be done. Activists have launched a “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots,” comprised of 53 non-governmental organizations. In May of 2013, state parties to the United Nations’ Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons held initial discussions on autonomous weapons, and future discussions are likely.
The Ethical Autonomy project seeks to focus on these challenging issues surrounding the development and use of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). The goal of the project is to help states, activists, academics and militaries grapple with the challenging issues of autonomy in future weapons. This dialogue is necessary to ensure an appropriate balance between ethical and strategic stability considerations, technological opportunities and future warfighting needs. The project will release a number of reports, serve as a clearinghouse for research produced by all sides on these issues, and convene a variety of public events.

You can participate by following developments at the CNAS Ethical Autonomy webpage and participating in discussion on Twitter using #LAWS.

To speak with Project Co-Directors Ben FitzGerald, Michael C. Horowitz, and Paul Scharre, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or call 202-457-9409.