Banning and regulating autonomous weapons

Hunting in packs. Patrolling computer networks. Deployed on land, at sea, in the air, in space—everywhere. Deployed autonomous weapons certainly sound sinister. But on balance, would they promote or detract from civilian safety?Answering this question requires a clear understanding of the term “civilian safety.” If it means protecting civilian lives during armed conflict, then yes, autonomous weapons might well contribute to this end someday. Today’s technology, however, is not robust enough for autonomous weapons to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, particularly amid insurgencies or civil wars. The best that current technology can achieve is to recognize radar signatures, heat signatures, shapes—or, in the case of people, sensors on uniforms. But this only helps identify one’s own fighters, which in no way increases civilian security.Over time, autonomous weapons technology may—with advancements in…

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