November 05, 2017

Will Killer Robots Be Banned? Lessons from Past Civil Society Campaigns

By Michael Horowitz

After several years of debate, on November 13-17, 2017, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will convene a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to discuss the topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), more popularly called “killer robots.” While the precise nature of these weapon systems is still the subject of debate, they are generally considered weapons that can select and engage targets on their own. Academics, policymakers, and technology leaders have raised questions about the risks of reducing human control by deploying weapon systems able to select and engage targets on their own.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an umbrella organization that includes many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with shared concerns about LAWS. Collectively, the Campaign advocates for their preemptive ban, claiming that the introduction of such weapons would violate international humanitarian law and risk devastating consequences to civilian populations. They are not the only groups or people concerned about LAWS. Tesla founder Elon Musk argues that artificial intelligence could cause World War III. A 2017 open letter from the Future of Life Institute, signed by dozens of researchers and executives who work on autonomous systems and robotics, states that making progress on the LAWS issue at the GGE meeting is vital for humanity.

Read the full op-ed in Lawfare.

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