In the 16 July 2022 issue of the New Scientist, it was reported that attempts to regulate autonomous weapons would likely fail.
Between March and July 2022, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) – Group of Governmental Experts on emerging technologies in the area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE on LAWS) held various meetings hosted by the United Nations (UN) Office for Disarmament Affairs:
- First Session: 07-11 March 2022.
- Second Session: 25-29 July 2022.
On 21 October 2022 a Joint Statement on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems was delivered at the UN General Assembly in New York. The prediction of failure came true:
While discussions at the UN CCW have failed to deliver results, the statement at the UNGA demonstrates the widespread commitment among states to make progress towards a new international framework on autonomous weapons systems. (StopKillerRobots.org, 2022).
The joint statement was more of an aspiration than action, and is not legally binding – although it does call for a legally binding treaty on autonomous weapons systems (StopKillerRobots, 2022). Interestingly the UK, US, Russia and Israel all opposed the idea of a legally binding document (Voelkerrechtsblog, 2022).
LAWS have already been used, for example the Turkish STM Kargu II in Libya. Experts also agree that LAWS are likely to be used in the Ukraine-Russian War (or Special Military Operation if you prefer) if it does not come to an end soon (Voelkerrechtsblog, 2022).
In the multilateral debate, the GGE on LAWS works under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980 (CCW) and has been formally discussing questions related to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS since 2017. The GGE on LAWS decisions requires consensus, a procedural feature that creates challenges since there are crucial interests from leading military powers at stake. And time and time again, diplomacy moves at a much slower pace than technological progress. (Voelkerrechtsblog, 2022).
With recent innovations and advances in artificial intelligence (AI), artificial cells, artificial blood, and artificial skin tissue (among others), Arnie’s T-100 – although some way off – maybe closer than we think!
New Scientist. (2022) Attempts to Regulate Autonomous Weapons are Failing. New Scientist. 19 July 2022, pp.12.
StopKillerRobots.org. (2022) 70 States Deliver Joint Statement on Autonomous Weapons Systems at UN General Assembly. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.stopkillerrobots.org/news/70-states-deliver-joint-statement-on-autonomous-weapons-systems-at-un-general-assembly/. [Accessed: 17 November, 2022].
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. (2022) Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems. Available from World Wide Web: https://meetings.unoda.org/ccw/convention-certain-conventional-weapons-group-governmental-experts-2022. [Accessed: 17 November, 2022].
Voelkerrechtsblog. (2022) What Have the Recent UN Attempts to Regulate Lethal Autonomous Weapons Brought? Available from World Wide Web: https://voelkerrechtsblog.org/what-have-the-recent-un-attempts-to-regulate-lethal-autonomous-weapons-brought/. [Accessed: 17 November, 2022].
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