Autonomy in Weapon Systems

The Military Application of Artificial Intelligence as a Litmus Test for Germany’s New Foreign and Security Policy
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The future international security landscape will be critically impacted by the military use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. With the advent of autonomous weapon systems (AWS) and a currently unfolding transformation of warfare, we have reached a turning point and are facing a number of grave new legal, ethical and political concerns.

In light of this, the Task Force on Disruptive Technologies and 21st Century Warfare, deployed by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, argues that meaningful human control over weapon systems and the use of force must be retained. In their report, the task force authors offer recommendations to the German government and the German armed forces to that effect.

The report argues that in following these recommendations the German government would send a strong signal that Germany is heeding its fundamental norms and values whilst living up to its newly grown international responsibilities.


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Table of contents

Foreword and Acknowledgments
Executive Summary

1. Concepts and definitions

2. Adherence to the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL)
2.1 The principle of distinction between civilians and combatants
2.2 Proportionality in attack
2.3 The prohibition of attacks against persons hors de combat
2.4 The unpredictability of AWS
2.5 The inadequacy of Article 36 reviews of AWS

3. Accountability and responsibility
3.1 The «many hands» scenario
3.2 Implications of the unpredictability of AWS for accountability
3.3 Inadequacy of proposed solutions to problems of accountability/responsibility

4. Human dignity, humanity, and public conscience
4.1 Human dignity
4.2 The Martens Clause

5. Global security and stability
5.1 Proliferation and arms races
5.2 Instability and (unintended) escalation

6. Safeguarding human control over and responsibility for targeting decisions

7. Summary
About the Authors

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