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Title: Lethal autonomous weapon systems under the law of armed conflict
Author: Homayounnejad, Maziar
ISNI:       0000 0004 7963 9586
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) are essentially weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further human intervention. While these are not currently fielded nor officially part of any nation's defence strategy, there is ample evidence that many States and defence contractors are currently developing LAWS for future deployment. The main law of armed conflict (LOAC) problem posed by these weapon systems is that lethal action will be taken by machine hardware and control software, rather than human operators exercising deliberative judgment at the point of weapons release. Specifically, LAWS will follow a set of technical processes, which may operate with super-human accuracy and precision, or with brittleness and potential failure, depending on context and circumstances. In contradistinction, LOAC presupposes sentience and self-awareness, for imposing legal obligations; and human metacognitive judgment, for its effective application in armed conflict. LAWS will possess none of these characteristics in the near-term. Accordingly, such weapon systems may only be lawfully deployed with meaningful human control (MHC), to ensure compliance with the LOAC targeting rules. The US/NATO Joint Targeting process affords substantial opportunity to ensure MHC in LAWS deployments, because of its highly deliberative planning processes. This will remain true, so long as autonomy does not supplant human judgment in the wider decision-making process, and so long as the (legally-enshrined) 'individual attack' limitation is maintained over and above mere technical viability. Moreover, by regarding precautions in attack as a full LOAC principle, and by integrating more technical personnel into the battle staffs, commanders will be in a stronger position to address the LAWS LOAC challenge. That is, to ensure that appropriate systems are deployed in a suitable operational environment to undertake machine-feasible tasks, along with appropriate precautionary measures to sufficiently mitigate civilian risk. Outside the US/NATO context, it is proposed that the LAWS LOAC challenge be facilitated with the development and publication of an expert LOAC Manual.
Supervisor: Schultz, Thomas Karl Peter ; Pils, Eva Maria Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available