Are “precision-guided munitions” really “killer robots”?


War on the Rocks readers might be interested in a piece that we published on Politico today on the ongoing debate surrounding lethal autonomous weapon systems, which were just discussed at the United Nations last week. Our article is about the differences between the smart weapons of today and tomorrow and so-called “killer robots.” (The headline is a bit more sensational, but authors don’t get to pick headlines, as everyone knows!) We explore the role of precision-guided munitions in reducing civilian suffering in war over the last generation and discuss the implications for ongoing attempts to understand what lethal autonomous weapon systems are and how states and the international community should think about them.

We think that these and other issues surrounding lethal autonomous weapons systems are important and worthy of debate. That is why we created the new CNAS project on Ethical Autonomy, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, to examine the topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems. We look forward to further engaging on these topics in WOTR and elsewhere in the future.

Michael C. Horowitz (@mchorowitz) is an associate professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Paul Scharre (@paul_scharre) is a Fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at CNAS. Follow their research at CNAS on “Ethical Autonomy”.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg