Anderson and Waxman
Law and Ethics for Autonomous Weapon Systems
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A NAtioNAl Security ANd lAw eSSAy
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Why a Ban Won’t Work and How the Laws o War Can
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Public debate is heating up over the uture development o autonomousweapon systems.
Some concerned critics portray that uture, oten invokingscience-ction imagery, as a plain choice between a world in which thosesystems are banned outright and a world o legal void and ethical collapseon the battleeld.
Yet an outright ban on autonomous weapon systems,even i it could be made eective, trades whatever risks autonomous weaponsystems might pose in war or the real, i less visible, risk o ailing to developorms o automation that might make the use o orce more precise and lessharmul or civilians caught near it. Grounded in a more realistic assessmento technology
acknowledging what is known and what is yet unknown
aswell as the interests o the many international and domestic actors involved,this paper outlines a practical alternative: the gradual evolution o codes oconduct based on traditional legal and ethical principles governing weaponsand warare.A November 2012 U.S. Department o Deense policy directive on the topicdenes an “autonomous weapon system” as one “that, once activated, canselect and engage targets without urther intervention by a human operator.”
Some such systems already exist, in limited deensive contexts and or whichhuman operators activate the system and can override its operation, such asthe U.S. Patriot and Phalanx anti-missile systems and Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Others are reportedly close at hand, such as a lethal sentryrobot designed in South Korea that might be used against hostile intrudersnear its border.
And many more lie ahead in a uture that is less and lessdistant.