With states set to discuss Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) this week at the Conventional on Certain Conventional Weapons Review Conference, Dr Heather Roff of Arizona States University has released a new paper on “Meaningful Human Control or Appropriate Human Judgment? The Necessary Limits on Autonomous Weapons.”

If it is accepted that the laws of armed conflict require human beings to make the decisions that uphold core principles such as distinction, proportionality, and precaution, the paper proposes, serious limitations on the deployment of autonomous weapons systems result if the ability of commanders to make these judgements to be maintained. Furthermore, systems capable of learning would introduce serious difficulties for commanders to know their likely effects, rendering such systems unacceptable.

Dr Roff’s latest paper continues to develop thinking about the role of human judgement and control in efforts to limit the risks presented by increasing autonomy in weapons systems. It builds on two workshops in Arizona this year, one held with Article 36 as part of a joint project funded by the Future of Life Institute. It also builds on analysis conducted for a previous paper jointly produced for this project on “Meaningful Human Control, Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Weapons.”

A Typhoon aircraft carrying Brimstone missiles, one of the systems looked at for this study (https://flic.kr/p/br9HvC)

A Typhoon aircraft carrying Brimstone missiles, one of the systems looked at for this study (https://flic.kr/p/br9HvC)

The joint project also involved a survey of the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in weapons systems, which has now published a database mapping autonomy in a range of currently deployed and emerging weapons systems. A methodology was developed to classify the level of autonomy of each system, using categories of “Self-Mobility,” “Self-Direction” and “Self-Determination”. The database and accompanying analysis is available on the Arizona State University Website.

The issue of human control over the use of force has been central to states’ discussion of autonomous weapons at the CCW. This joint project has sought to support taking these discussions forward, towards action on the serious issues posed by increasing autonomy in weapons systems.

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Roff Dec 16 thumbnailMeaningful Human Control or Appropriate Human Judgment? The Necessary Limits on Autonomous Weapons
December 2016

New paper by Dr Heather Roff for the CCW Review Conference

 

Roff Moyes MHC AI and AWS thumbnailMeaningful Human Control, Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Weapons
April 2016

Paper by Dr Heather Roff and Article 36’s Richard Moyes for the CCW experts meeting on LAWS

 
Autonomy, Robotics & Collective Systems: research and database on existing and developing weapon systems hosted by Arizona State University

 

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