Mackesy Room, Pembroke College

Moral Panic and Conceptual Paradoxes: Critiquing & Reframing the Call to Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

Using the evocative term ‘killer robots’, the United Nations and human rights group reports claim that lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) are ‘almost a reality’ that ‘will leave humans utterly defenceless’. Yet talks at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons have yielded more confusion than consensus for a ban on LAWS. This presentation attempts to explain why.

While employing moral panic has been effective marketing, it is impossible to reconcile with the fact that more than 30 militaries have employed defensive, anti-material, weapon systems capable of selecting and engaging targets without further human intervention largely without controversy for three decades. This presentation suggests narrowing the proposed ban from LAWS writ large to those weapon systems whose primary use is to target personnel.

Refreshments will be provided.