April 28, 2015

Postgame: the U.N. Debate on Lethal Robots

By Kelley Sayler

From April 13 to 17, the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons convened a meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), attended by over 90 states and 15 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  This meeting was intended to build upon the first round of expert meetings, held in May 2014, and foster discussion of the technical, ethical, and legal issues related to LAWS.  The meeting featured a combination of expert presentations and statements from participants, as well as daily side events hosted by NGOs.

While states were more engaged in the proceedings—and discussion was more focused—than during the 2014 meeting, it was clear that states held widely divergent views on the nature of autonomous weapons. For some, many existing drones qualify as LAWS. For others, only those systems capable of autonomous target selection and engagement qualify.  For still others, only adaptive learning systems that exhibit human-level cognition would qualify as LAWS.

Read the full op-ed at Bard College.

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