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The Future of Remote Warfare? Artificial Intelligence, Weapons Systems and Human Control

By Ingvild Bode and Hendrik Huelss, 2/12/2021

In a contribution to a critical introduction to remote warfare (co-edited by Abigail Watson, Alasdair McKay, Megan Karlshøj-Pedersen), Ingvild Bode and Hendrik Huelss (both Centre for War Studies) examine AI-driven weapons systems in the context of remote warfare.

The piece argues that weapons systems with autonomous features increase fundamental asymmetries in warfare via physical, emotional, and cognitive distancing. The authors argue that problems associated with these distancing practices are often cast as being amenable to technical “solutions” when they are really inherently political in nature. This leads the authors to engage with the concept of meaningful human control that has become a focal point in the debate on (lethal) autonomous weapons systems. They put this in the context of state practices of remote warfare that have already set precedents in terms of diminishing the quality of meaningful human control.

Thereby, the authors want to put less emphasis on the novelty of autonomy, and, instead focus more on how practices of warfare that already compromise human control have become accepted. They highlight that questions about the quality of human control raised by existing systems with autonomous features, such as air defence systems and loitering munitions, are not part of the ongoing discussion on LAWS among states at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). This omission prevents the international community from taking a closer look at whether practices of using these systems are fundamentally appropriate.

Find the report here:

Editing was completed: 12.02.2021