Københavns Universitet
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Beyond Killer Robots - Networked Artificial Intelligence Disrupting the Battlefield

Konference — Learn more about killer robots, and the unresolvable problems they create for the application of international humanitarian law. Could we solve these issues by changing the perspective to autonomous military networks?


Date & Time:

Nanna Berg Auditorium, 1st floor, room 9A-1-01, Njalsgade 76, DK-2300 Copenhagen S

Hosted by:
Centre for International Law, Conflict and Crisis, The Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen & AI-LeD Research Group



Conference theme
Autonomous weapons systems (AWS) are the next evolution in military technology. Debates held at the UN are stalled where the States participating can’t even agree on the need or not of a definition for autonomy. Until now, academic and diplomatic debates have focused on terminator-like individualised entities. Is that an accurate description of what AWS are?

While it is clear that AWS will have to conform to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to be lawfully deployed, it is now obvious that those legal obligations do not possess sufficient clarity to adequately constrain AWS design, function, and use. Consequently, misuses of AWS might lead to impunity.

The current anthropomorphic trope portrays AWS as individualised entities, thus ignoring their networked nature where invisible forces frame the types of decisions that human operators can make. Where the network possess both civilian and military nodes, human and machines, by focusing only on the fielded weaponized system, we ignore the impact that all the other nodes have on the end decisions made by the one system that is projecting force.

We need to look at the concept of autonomy through the lenses of networks and distribution. This will allow understanding the interplay of influences in one-mind many-bodies entities, and adapt our legal regimes to tackle the issues posed by the development of autonomy in warfare. By setting the foundations for this new perspective, this conference aims at fostering new research venues in the debate on AWS. While this perspective also reveals new problems, such as the erosion of intentionality and responsibility, it also shines a light on other elements of the military autonomous network, such as cyber weapons, satellites, and integration of civilian technologies and operators in the military networks.

Read more about the conference