UNODA Occasional Papers No. 30, November 2017

Perspectives on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

image of UNODA Occasional Papers No. 30, November 2017

This publication considers lethal autonomous weapon systems, approaching the issue from five different perspectives. It has been published ahead of the first meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons mandated to examine issues related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapon systems in the context of the objectives and purposes of the Convention. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Occasional Papers are a series of ad hoc publications featuring, in edited form, papers or statements made at meetings, symposiums, seminars, workshops or lectures that deal with topical issues in the field of arms limitation, disarmament and international security.




The prospect of the deployment of fully autonomous weapon systems raises a number of troubling questions. As explored in this paper, these questions are multi-dimensional. For example, lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) could seriously test existing legal frameworks by posing novel challenges for attribution and accountability. They also pose ethical and moral quandaries: are we comfortable with outsourcing life and death decisions to machines and what does that say about the value we place on the sanctity of human life? On the security front, such weapons may lower barriers to the use of force and could be particularly attractive to unsophisticated and unscrupulous non-State actors.


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