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Old 08-21-2019, 12:01 PM
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Post Report to Congress on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

Report to Congress on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems
By: USNI News - 8-20-19
RE: https://news.usni.org/2019/08/20/rep...eid=4df58e1215


The following is the Aug. 16, 2019 Congressional Research Service In Focus report International Discussions Concerning Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems.

From the report:

As technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), advances, lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS)—weapons designed to make decisions about using lethal force without manual human control—may soon make their appearance, raising a number of potential ethical, diplomatic, legal, and strategic concerns for Congress. By providing a brief overview of ongoing international discussions concerning LAWS, this In Focus seeks to assist Congress as it conducts oversight hearings on AI within the military (as the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services have done in recent years), guides U.S. foreign policy, and makes funding and authorization decisions related to LAWS.

International Fora for LAWS Discussions

The international community has begun to examine the implications of LAWS in discussions held primarily under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), a multilateral arms control agreement to which the United States became a party in 1982, intended to protect noncombatants from particularly inhumane weapons of war. The CCW’s five protocols ban or regulate specific conventional weapons, notably blinding lasers. The CCW’s decisions are made by consensus among the treaty’s States Parties, and it has served in the past as a platform for discussing new weapon technologies.

Since 2014, the CCW has convened annual meetings of its States Parties to discuss the legal, ethical, technological, and military facets of LAWS. These meetings were upgraded in 2017 from informal “Meetings of Experts” to a formal Group of Government Experts (GGE). The GGE invites experts from civil society to partake in the deliberations alongside members of national delegations.

Despite six years of debate, the GGE has not produced any specific policy recommendations for the CCW’s States Parties. Although the meetings have led to a consensus that appropriate levels of human judgement must be maintained over any LAWS and that LAWS are subject to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the mechanics of applying both terms remain contentious (e.g., does IHL categorically ban LAWS?), and the limited scope of agreement provides no basis for further action.

Full report states:

August 16, 2019

International Discussions Concerning Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

As technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), advances, lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS)—weapons designed to make decisions about using lethal force without manual human control—may soon make their appearance, raising a number of potential ethical, diplomatic, legal, and strategic concerns for Congress. By providing a brief overview of ongoing international discussions concerning LAWS, this In Focus seeks to assist Congress as it conducts oversight hearings on AI within the military (as the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services have done in recent years), guides U.S. foreign
policy, and makes funding and authorization decisions related to LAWS.

International Fora for LAWS Discussions

The international community has begun to examine the implications of LAWS in discussions held primarily under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), a multilateral arms control agreement to which the United States became a party in 1982, intended to protect noncombatants from particularly inhumane weapons of war. The CCW’s five protocols ban or regulate specific conventional weapons, notably blinding lasers. The CCW’s decisions are made by consensus among the treaty’s States Parties, and it has served in the past as a platform for discussing new weapon technologies.

Since 2014, the CCW has convened annual meetings of its States Parties to discuss the legal, ethical, technological, and military facets of LAWS. These meetings were
upgraded in 2017 from informal “Meetings of Experts” to a formal Group of Government Experts (GGE). The GGE invites experts from civil society to partake in the deliberations alongside members of national delegations.

Despite six years of debate, the GGE has not produced any specific policy recommendations for the CCW’s States Parties. Although the meetings have led to a consensus that appropriate levels of human judgement must be maintained over any LAWS and that LAWS are subject to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the mechanics of applying both terms remain contentious (e.g., does IHL categorically ban LAWS?), and the limited scope of agreement provides no basis for further action.

What Are LAWS?

Definitions. One reason for the lack of progress within the CCW GGE is that no single definition for LAWS is universally accepted, especially within diplomatic and international fora, where some countries argue that an internationally accepted definition is unnecessary. Most parties to the LAWS discussions do agree that the defining features of LAWS are full autonomy (no need for manual human control) and lethality (antipersonnel as opposed to antimateriel), although there is much debate over the specifics of these terms, in addition to other details.

Status. Over the past several decades, governments around the world have been successfully incorporating autonomous functions into their weapons. However, as of now, no lethal antipersonnel weapons are recognized as having fully autonomous target selection and engagement capabilities or demonstrating enough human-level cognition to be trusted to apply lethal force in compliance with the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC). Nonetheless, the potential of LAWS is so great that Stuart Russell, computer science professor at the University of California, describes them as “the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

Table 1. Nation Stances on Preemptive LAWS Ban Support

Algeria
Ghana
Argentina
Guatemala
Austria
Holy See
Bolivia
Iraq
Brazil
Mexico
Chile
Morocco
Colombia
Nicaragua
Costa Rica
Pakistan
Cuba
Panama
Djibouti
Peru
Ecuador
Uganda
Egypt
Venezuela
El Salvador
Zimbabwe

Other a
China b

Oppose
Australia
Belgium
France b
Germany
Israel b
South Korea b
Russia b
Spain
Sweden
Turkey
United States b
United Kingdom b

Source: CRS consolidation of November 2018 and April 2019 data from multiple sources.

a. See section on China below.
b. Countries most capable of developing LAWS soon.

LAWS Regulation Debate

Arguments Supporting LAWS Ban. Moral arguments in favor of a ban contend that LAWS distance human judgement too much from immediate decisions about taking human life to be morally acceptable under any circumstances and so must be banned. Legal arguments contend that LAWS could violate the spirit, if not the letter, of both IHL and LOAC and should therefore be preemptively banned. In this view, LAWS could, due to poor design, engage in the prohibited practice of attacking and killing noncombatants without being held accountable. Legal arguments sometimes cite the CCW protocol on blinding lasers as a comparative case.

Strategic arguments against LAWS make the case that the development of LAWS could hurt more than help a country’s national security, because, once developed, LAWS can be relatively easy to proliferate to potential adversaries, particularly since AI technology is easily disseminated due to its digital nature.

RE: https://crsreports.congress.gov
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