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Killer Robots: An Apologia
Wake Forest Common Law (2016)
  • Thomas E. Simmons
In Forrest Gump, Gary Sinise played the character of Lieutenant Dan Taylor, a physically and psychologically wounded Vietnam War veteran. In the more than twenty years since the movie was released, Sinise has leveraged the emotional resonance of his character to support various veterans’ organizations. In recognition of his efforts, he has been named an honorary Navy Petty Officer and an honorary Marine. His Lt. Dan Band (in which Sinise plays bass) is named after the character that he made famous.

There are many voices in the contemporary debate over lethal autonomous weapons systems and whether their use should be outlawed in warfare, but Lieutenant Dan’s voice—the voice of veterans who bear the costs and scars of battle—has not been heard. It deserves to be. Autonomous weapons systems (“AWS”) could improve the effectiveness of remote-controlled drones and reduce the severity of widespread posttraumatic stress disorders suffered by drone pilots. This essay sketches the etiology and epidemiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), outlines the current state of the debate on AWS, and concludes with a rejection of the calls for an international treaty banning autonomous weapons. Because popular culture, especially films, shape to a large degree popular conceptions and misconceptions of AWS, references and citations to popular culture inform this discussion.
Publication Date
March 30, 2016
Citation Information
Thomas E. Simmons, Killer Robots: An Apologia, Wake Forest Common Law (March 30, 2016), available at