Lethal autonomous weapons, also known as LAWs, are a defense mechanism in which a type of military robot can find and destroy targets based on the programming of the device, according to the Congressional Research Service. Such weapons have the power to completely catastrophize and destruct a community, although current regulations in some countries require the final command of a human to attack.
However, in areas where this is not a requirement, machines have the power to take human life and terrorize cities without any support from the owners of the weapon. LAWs recently have reached a peak of sophistication and danger. Several nations, including the United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Israel and South Korea are known to be developing Lethal Autonomous Weapons, according to the Future of Life Institute.
The use and evolution of these weapons are being kept relatively private, and not many in the public sphere are aware of the danger they hold. One of the biggest concerns held regarding these weapons is the shaded morality of their use, according to the United Nations News.
First, machinery does not have the ability to feel compassion or to recognize extractant circumstances, both of which are essential in making ethical decisions, such as the one to kill or to save. Second, the use of such machinery also makes the possibility of war much simpler, as human forces would not have to be put into motion, and violence would be readily available.
Third, the responsibility for unlawful acts of war using an autonomous weapon is unclear, thus preventing justice for victims. Finally, the inappropriate use of Lethal Autonomous Weapons, such as during protests or civilian campaigns creates the possibility of unnecessary and innocent deaths.
Because the advancement of Lethal Autonomous Weapons is a relatively recent development, the past few years have been important for the beginnings of regulation regarding such weapons. In 2018, the United Nations chief said that “machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant, and should be prohibited by international law,” according to the United Nations News.
This shows clear support for the banning of Lethal Autonomous Weapons, although this sentiment may not be agreed upon by all nations. The United Nations has tasked the Convention on Conventional Weapons with discussing the ethical issues of Lethal Autonomous Weapons, as well as how to best regulate these weapons, according to the United Nations Geneva.
Currently, almost every nation is in favor of maintaining human control over these weapons, and twenty-six nations are in favor of banning Lethal Autonomous Weapons completely according to the Japan Times.
While policies should not necessarily be made out of fear, the danger of these weapons is clear to many. Several organizations run or support campaigns that are working towards banning Lethal Autonomous Weapons. These are available to all who recognize this danger and the need to prevent further damage by Lethal Autonomous Weapons.