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Saying 'No!' to Lethal Autonomous Targeting

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Plans to automate killing by using robots armed with lethal weapons have been a prominent feature of most US military forces' roadmaps since 2004. The idea is to have a staged move from 'man-in-the-loop' to 'man-on-the-loop' to full autonomy. While this may result in considerable military advantages, the policy raises ethical concerns with regard to potential breaches of International Humanitarian Law, including the Principle of Distinction and the Principle of Proportionality. Current applications of remote piloted robot planes or drones offer lessons about how automated weapons platforms could be misused by extending the range of legally questionable, targeted killings by security and intelligence forces. Moreover, the alleged moral disengagement by remote pilots will only be exacerbated by the use of autonomous robots. Leaders in the international community need to address the difficult legal and moral issues now, before the current mass proliferation of development reaches fruition.
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Keywords: discrimination; distinction; drones; ethics; military robotics; proportionality; robotics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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