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Reflections on the 2016 CCW Review Conference (UPDATE: now available in braille)

This is a guest post by Anna Khalfaoui. Anna is currently pursuing a LLM at Harvard Law School, having previously studied at Cambridge University and King’s College London. She specialises in public international law and international human rights law. Click here to read the article in braille Reflections on the Review Conference as a newcomer […]

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Speed kills! Why we need to hit the brakes on “killer robots”

by Juergen Altmann and Frank Sauer This analysis originally appeared as a guest post on duckofminerva.com Autonomous weapon systems: rarely has an issue gained the attention of the international arms control community as quickly as these so-called killer robots. “Once activated, they can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator“, according […]

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LAWS: An Open Letter from AI & Robotics Experts (UPDATED Dec. 2016)

Thousands of experts in artificial intelligence, robotics and related professions have signed an open letter, hosted by the Future of Life Institute, calling for a ban on autonomous weapons that select and engage targets without human intervention. You can read more on the importance of this letter to the current global effort of banning lethal […]

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Banning Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS): The way forward

With ICRAC’s 2009 mission statement fulfilled and the issue of fully autonomous weapon systems picked up by the international community at the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, ICRAC and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots can celebrate a first success (Read more about this here and here and see the ICRAC […]

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Is Russia Leading the World to Autonomous Weapons?

This is a guest post by Mark Gubrud (@mgubrud). The short answer is no. But Russia is testing and may deploy at its ICBM bases a lethal mobile system which has “automatic and semi-automatic control modes.” Additionally, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has recently called for “robotic systems that are fully integrated in the command […]

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Futureproofing Is Never Complete: Ensuring the Arms Trade Treaty Keeps Pace with New Weapons Technology

In a new working paper, International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) members Matthew Bolton (Pace University) and Wim Zwijnenburg (IKV Pax Christi) stress the importance of making sure states control new weapons technologies, including robotic weapons, when the Arms Trade Treaty enters into force. It outlines strategies for civil society (such as the Control […]

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A meme is born: autonomous = secure

This is a guest post by Mark Gubrud (@mgubrud). One of Joshua Foust’s assertions in his debate with Heather Roff was that making weapons autonomous was necessary in order to secure them against the threat of hacking. I posted a response after Foust reiterated this surprising argument in an article which seems to have gone semi-viral on the […]

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NYT warns of killer robot gap

This is a guest post by Mark Gubrud (@mgubrud). New York Times science writer John Markoff reported on Sept.23 that the US military “lags” in development of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), which is sort of true if you compare the status of UGVs with that of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). The real reason, as Markoff […]

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The Politics of Killer Robots: Experts Consider Political, Legal and Ethical Implications of Drones and Other Robotic Weapons at Pace University Symposium

Not all conduct is justified in war. Centuries of tradition – from religious texts to chivalry and honor codes to modern international humanitarian and human rights law – have limited what weapons armed groups can use, who and what they can target and where and when they may fight. Each new innovation in military technologies […]

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Foust’s case for killer robots engaged: Autonomous weapons are no phantom menace

This is a guest post by Mark Gubrud (@mgubrud). ForeignPolicy.com blogger Joshua Foust announced on May 14 that he’d identified a “liberal” case for killer robots, including the seemingly incompatible assessments that they could “do it better”, where “it” means make the decision to kill, and that they are but a “phantom” (therefore not demanding of […]

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The Role of ICRAC in the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations

Last week the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which will aim to constrain the flow of conventional weapons to states and organizations that threaten peace and security or engage in gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Several members of the International Committee for Robot Arms […]

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Arms Control for Uninhabited Vehicles: A Detailed Study

In a detailed scientific article just published online, physicist and peace researcher Jürgen Altmann (TU Dortmund, Germany) explains that armed uninhabited vehicles (on land, on/under water, in the air) do not exist in a legal vacuum.   For example, they must not be equipped with biological or chemical weapons. In Europe most land and air […]

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Smart Robots? Perhaps not smart enough to be called stupid.

The New York Times has entered the discussion about the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Columnist Bill Keller has produced a well balanced article that looks at the pros and cons of a ban. For the ban, he notes that The arguments against developing fully autonomous weapons, as they are called, range from moral (“they […]

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Obama administration admits that drone confrontations could unintentionally trigger hostilities

CNN yesterday reported a confrontation between an Iranian F-4 fighter jet and a predator drone.  But given the November 2012 incident between Iranian fighter jets and a predator, the drones are now routinely accompanied by US military planes. The Iranian F-4 turned away after a verbal warning was issued by one of two US fighter […]

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US can’t make up its mind about the medal of droner

Before he retired from his job as US Secretary of defence, Leon Panetta announced a new ‘distinguished warfare medal to be given to drone pilots who sit thousand miles away from the action. This upset many service people and their families because it has a higher ranking than the ‘bronze star’. The bronze star has […]

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No room for the buzzing of the drones on the big rock candy mountain

An article in yesterdays Globe and Mail (Canada) emphasized the psychological impact of drone strikes combined with noisy surveillance. Something that is often overlooked is the impact on civilians of the constant buzzing of drones overhead. They may be mainly used  for surveillance but even the occasional strike means that no one knows if the […]

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A call for engineers to stop autonomous killing machines now.

In this month’s ‘The Engineer’, a magazine for engineers, I published an article calling upon engineers to help with a ban on autonomous lethal weapons. They titled my article “say no to killer robots” which was more direct than my own title of “stop autonomous killing machines now”. “This is a call to engineers to […]

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If the US president can order the assassination of Americans overseas, what are the limits to his power?

An article published in the New York Times (March 9 2013) gives great insight into the targeting of US citizens abroad. For the first time we get details of intelligence gathering and the enormous resources that the CIA used to track down and kill US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. The article talks about one bungled attempt […]

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Job adverts point to the US planning drone strikes controlled from the UK

The Mail on Sunday has found two job adverts from the US Air Force asking for a communication systems administrator analyst and a systems administrator with operational experience with Predator Drones. Nothing odd about this until you find out that they are to work at RAF Waddington in the UK – ouch! The adverts say […]

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Code Pink brings chocolates and flowers to the tea party.

When drone extremist John Brennan’s appointment to Chief of the CIA was delayed by 13 hours by filibuster, Senator Paul Rand, accolades came from an unexpected source. As pointed out by the New York Times, ‘In Washington, Code Pink, a leftist group of antiwar activists, showed up with flowers and chocolates at Mr. Paul’s Senate […]

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Moral Machines Guru takes moral high ground on autonomous weapons

Wendell Wallach is well known for co-authoring the important book ‘Moral Machines’ with Colin Allen. It presents the best state of the art description and discussion of how computers could or might make moral decisions about humans in the future. Now Wendell has come out strongly against the whole notion of autonomous weapons. He sees […]

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Robot warriors: Lethal machines coming of age

The BBC News Magazine published an article that pits Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and Peter “Wired for War” Singer against Henric Christensen and Ron Arkin from Georgia Institute of Technology. Henrick Christensen’s project funded by defence contractor BAE systems is used as an example of how autonomous robots may be used in conflict. The […]

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DoD Directive on Autonomy in Weapon Systems

This is a guest post by Mark Gubrud (@mgubrud). On Nov. 21, as news of Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) “Losing Humanity” report was spreading, the Department of Defense quietly released Directive 3000.09 “for the development and use of autonomous and semi-autonomous functions in weapon systems”, making the United States the first nation to have an […]

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The Principle of Humanity in Conflict

This is a guest post by Mark Gubrud (@mgubrud). I want to share a personal perspective, which has not been endorsed by ICRAC. I hope to stimulate further discussion on the foundations and framing of the nascent global campaign against autonomous weapons (AW, or systems, AWS). This essay is written to be constructively provocative. Two […]

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Debating Proposals for a Possible International Convention on Robotic Weapons

In the last few years there have been increasing calls for a global regulatory framework to govern robotic weapons. Just yesterday, influential counter-terrorism correspondent Peter Bergen called for a treaty to manage and mitigate drone proliferation. Earlier this year, along with Thomas Nash and Richard Moyes of the advocacy group Article 36, I called for […]

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