Academic journal article Stanford Law & Policy Review

Automated Warfare

Academic journal article Stanford Law & Policy Review

Automated Warfare

Article excerpt

In this Article, I review the military and security uses of robotics and "unmanned" or "uninhabited" (and sometimes "remotely piloted") vehicles in a number of relevant conflict environments that, in turn, raise issues of law and ethics that bear significantly on both foreign and domestic policy initiatives. My treatment applies to the use of autonomous unmanned platforms in combat and low-intensity international conflict, but also offers guidance for the increased domestic uses of both remotely controlled and fully autonomous unmanned aerial, maritime, and ground systems for immigration control, border surveillance, drug interdiction, and domestic law enforcement. I outline the emerging debate concerning "robot morality" and computational models of moral cognition and examine the implications of this debate for the future reliability, safety, and effectiveness of autonomous systems (whether weaponized or unarmed) that might come to be deployed in both domestic and international conflict situations. Likewise, 1 discuss attempts by the International Committee on Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) to outlaw or ban the use of autonomous systems that are lethally armed, as well an alternative proposal by the eminent Yale University ethicist, Wendell Wallach, to have lethally armed autonomous systems that might be capable of making targeting decisions independent of any human oversight specifically designated "mala in se" under international law. Following the approach of Marchant, et al., however, I summarize the lessons learned and the areas of provisional consensus reached thus far in this debate in the form of "soft-law" precepts that reflect emergent norms and a growing international consensus regarding the proper use and governance of such weapons.

I.   CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS OF ETHICS & LAW FOR UNMANNED SYSTEMS
II.  DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE HYPOTHETICAL CASE STUDIES
III. UNDERLYING PHILOSOPHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
IV.  MORAL AND LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF A LESS COMPLEX RESEARCH
     AGENDA
V.   ETHICAL PRINCIPLES FOR UNMANNED SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND
     DEPLOYMENT POLICY
CONCLUSION

I. CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS OF ETHICS & LAW FOR UNMANNED SYSTEMS

The period from 2007 to 2013 witnessed an enormous outpouring of work devoted to the ethical and (far less frequently) the legal implications of military robotics. The inspiration for these studies stemmed from both the tremendous advances in the technologies themselves and the consequent dramatic increase in their roles in the conduct of military conflicts in many regions of the world.

These studies encompass Australian philosopher Robert Sparrow's inaugural essay, Killer Robots, and a subsequent, similarly titled book by Arman Krishnan. (1) A detailed and path-breaking survey of the ethical dilemmas posed by the increased use of such technologies prepared for the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) by renowned computer scientist and roboticist, George Bekey, and his philosophy colleagues Patrick Lin and Keith Abney at California State Polytechnic University (2) heralded, in turn, the widely read and enormously influential treatment of the emerging ethical challenges and foreign policy implications of military robotics, Wired for War, by Brookings Institution senior fellow Peter W. Singer. (3)

The vast majority of these works focus on the ethical ramifications attendant upon the increased military uses of robotic technologies, reflecting the relevant lack of attention by legal scholars to the status of robotics in international law. The current status of domestic and international law governing robotics, however, together with a range of proposals for effective future governance of these technologies, was recently articulated by Arizona State University Law Professor, Gary Marchant, and several colleagues in the Consortium on Emerging Technologies, Military Operations, and National Security (CETMONS). (4) The legal and moral implications of military robotics constituted the main focus of a special issue of the Journal of Military Ethics (5) and of subsequent anthologies edited by Lin, Abney, and Bekey and, most recently, Bradley J. …

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