The Ethical Troubles of Future Warfare. On the Prohibition of Autonomous Weapon Systems

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Mihail-Valentin Cernea


This paper is concerned with evaluating the arguments given to support the prohibition of autonomous weapon systems (AWS). I begin by offering a definition ofautonomous weapons systems, focusing on the kind of autonomy involved by this type of combat robots. I continue by exploring Ronald Arkin’s main arguments for ethical advantages in warfare that could be gained by the development and use of AWS (larger change of real world conflicts to actually comply with the international laws of war). The main part of the paper is dedicated to appraising what kinds of prohibition the international community can impose on such advanced weaponized robots and the kinds of arguments given by the proponents of such a ban. I propose a threefold classification of the arguments: epistemic, consequentialist and deontological. Of these three types of arguments, I argue that deontological arguments are the weakest, given the fact that their requirements are not satisfied by most weapons employed in war and that consequentialist arguments are more convincing if we are to ban the development ofAWS. Regarding epistemic arguments and the legal arguments based upon them, they can be used to prohibit the use of AWS, but they seem to be neutral regarding the elaboration of these Artificial Intelligence based warfare technologies.

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CERNEA, Mihail-Valentin. The Ethical Troubles of Future Warfare. On the Prohibition of Autonomous Weapon Systems. Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series, [S.l.], v. 66, n. 2, p. 67-89, feb. 2018. ISSN 0068-3175. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 22 nov. 2019.