Emerging Technologies

Emerging military and security technologies are bringing forth new challenges.

Advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics continue to push the boundaries of autonomy. Practically, this means that the extent of human-decision making and  control of weapons systems is being brought into question. Lethal autonomous weapons systems, in particular, have been identified as deeply problematic from a moral, ethical and legal perspective. Autonomous weapons are weapons systems that can select and engage targets with little human intervention. Autonomous weapons systems have been called the “third revolution in warfare after gunpowder and nuclear arms” by leading scientists and tech developers. Without regulation, the risks posed by these weapons will only increase.

Project Ploughshares has joined the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a growing coalition of 142 organizations in 62 countries working to pre-emptively ban weapons systems that, once activated, would select and attack targets without human intervention.

While countries have been discussing this issue since 2014 at the United Nations, the process has been slow and technological advancements are outpacing regulation. This points to the clear need for greater dialogue nationally and internationally.

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What are autonomous weapons systems (aka "killer robots")? Why are they problematic? Click on the image below to find out.

Losing HUMANITY: The threat of Autonomous Weapons Systems (aka "killer robots")

Recent Posts on Emerging Technologies

The AI-enhanced kill chain

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Military research and development in recent years have focused on artificial intelligence (AI) tools that gather and analyze data quickly. Combined with improved sensors, they make possible faster and seemingly more accurate targeting of enemy positions. Now this R&D is being operationalized. Last September, according to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, the United States Air Force, for the first time, used AI to help to identify a target or targets in “a live operational kill chain.”

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At first glance, it might appear that seven years of international discussions on autonomous weapons have had few concrete results. At the time of writing, the third session of the 2021 United Nations (UN) Group of Governmental Experts on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) was scheduled to take place in early December in Geneva, Switzerland. The most that is expected from these meetings is a proposal to continue talking.

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