Editor’s Note

By John Mecklin | March 3, 2016

Last year, researchers in artificial intelligence and robotics released an open letter, endorsed by high-profile individuals such as Stephen Hawking, calling for “a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” The letter echoed arguments – made since 2013 by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots – that autonomous weapons are “a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to … international human rights and humanitarian law.” But support for a ban is not unanimous. Some argue that autonomous weapons would commit fewer battlefield atrocities than human beings and that their development might even be considered morally imperative. Here, Paulo E. Santos of Brazil, Heather Roff (2016) of the United States, and Monika Chansoria (2016) of India debate whether deployed autonomous weapons would promote or detract from civilian safety – and whether these weapons ought to be banned or merely regulated.

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