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Unpublished Paper
Autonomous Weapon Systems: A Coming Legal Singularity?
ExpressO (2012)
  • Benjamin N Kastan, Duke University
Military robotics has long captured the popular imagination in movies, books and magazines. In recent years, this technology has moved from the realm of science fiction to reality. The precursors to truly autonomous weapons, the so-called “drones”, have generated a great deal of discussion. Few authors, however, have applied current law to the developing technology of autonomous military robots, or “autonomous weapon systems”. The treatment of such subjects in the ethics, robotics, and popular literature has generally assumed that autonomous systems either fit perfectly into existing legal regimes or threaten long-standing paradigms. This article demonstrates that neither assumption is correct. Rather, the introduction of autonomous military robots will require an adaptation of well-established legal principles in the law of war and domestic accountability mechanisms to this new technology. A key adaptation that must be made is the introduction of a military-created standard for operation of autonomous systems. This standard will set how such robotic systems may be used in accordance with the law of war. The establishment of standard operating procedure also addresses accountability concerns by helping to establish a standard of care below which liability may be imposed on the human commanders of autonomous military robots.
Publication Date
March 12, 2012
Citation Information
Benjamin N Kastan. "Autonomous Weapon Systems: A Coming Legal Singularity?" ExpressO (2012)
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