This Bibliography contains a selection of recent publications on fully autonomous weapons sorted by reports and briefings, then articles and commentaries, and a list of video and audio recordings. See also statements by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which includes our reports, presentations and press releases.
A WILPF Guide to Killer Robots, Reaching Critical Will, February 2019. This guide is intended to equip WILPF Sections and Groups with information about the issue; WILPF’s approach; and the political process for a ban. It will be a living document, updated periodically to reflect developments.
Crunch Time, PAX, November 2018. This report provides an overview of the positions of European states on fully autonomous weapons, finding that European states agree that human control over the deadly use of force is necessary.
Heed the Call: A Moral and Legal Imperative to Ban Killer Robots, Human Rights Watch, August 2018. This report explains the need to center debates on fully autonomous weapons around the two elements of the Martens Clause: the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.
Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapons Systems, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, November 2017. This one-year mapping study on autonomy in weapons systems by Vincent Boulanin and Maaike Verbruggen is SIPRI’s first report on the topic.
Where to draw the line, PAX, November 2017. This 22-page report by Frank Slijper of PAX looks at weapons systems with varying degrees of autonomy in the selection and engaging of targets.
Keeping Control: European Positions on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, PAX, November 2017. This 58-page report by Daan Kayser reviews European positions on various issues including the need for human control of weapons systems and the ban call.
The Humanization of Robots and the Robotization of the Human Person, Holy See, November 2017. This paper opens with an introduction by the Caritas in Veritate Foundation and contains all of the Holy See’s UN statements on killer robots.
Making the Case: The Dangers of Killer Robots and the Need for a Preemptive Ban, HRW, December 2016. This 49-pp report responds to critics who have defended killer robots and challenged call for preemptive ban by providing detailed rebuttals to 16 key contentions.
An Intelligent Future? Maximising the opportunities and minimising the risks of artificial intelligence in the UK, Future Advocacy, October 2016. This new NGO’s 31-pp report on artificial intelligence technologies includes a section on the military uses of AI and a UK survey that shows 50 percent of those polled support a ban on fully autonomous weapons. See also Written Evidence for the Robotics and AI Select Committee Inquiry.
Autonomous Weapon Systems: Implications of Increasing Autonomy in the Critical Functions of Weapons, International Committee of the Red Cross, August 2016. This 98-pp report contains research and presentations from the second ICRC meeting on autonomous weapon systems held in March 2016 on the “implications of increasing autonomy in the critical functions of weapons.”
Project: Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Weapons, and Meaningful Human Control by Arizona State University Global Security Initiative’s Autonomy, Robotics & Collective Systems, October 2016. This compilation by ASU’s Dr. Heather Roff and Richard Moyes of Article 36 surveys developments in artificial intelligence and autonomy in weapons systems. It includes a excel sheet dataset survey of autonomous weapons systems, their developers, and other metrics.
Autonomous Weapons and Operational Risk by the Center for New American Security (CNAS), March 2016. Written by Senior Fellow Paul Scharre–a former Pentagon official–this 54-pp report examines the risks in future autonomous weapons that would choose their own targets and the potential for catastrophic accidents. See also The New York Times.
The weapon criterion and the development of autonomous weapons by the ethics council of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, February 2016. This 4-pp chapter published in the council’s 2015 annual report announces its intent to begin monitoring companies investing in the potential development of fully autonomous weapons systems and see if such investments would be contrary to the fund’s investment policies and ethical guidelines. See also Reuters.
Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, April 2015. This 40-pp publication details significant hurdles to assigning personal accountability for the actions of fully autonomous weapons under both criminal and civil law. It also elaborates on the consequences of failing to assign legal responsibility.
Killing by Machine by Article 36, April 2015. A 10-page look at key issues for understanding meaningful human control.
The governance of autonomous weapons by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 2014. This 10-pp chapter published in the 2014 Yearbook is the first by the (SIPRI) on fully autonomous weapons. It provides an overview of the state of technology and emerging international debate and concludes with the observation that nations need to ensure the “legal framework also develops adequately in response” including to the calls for a moratorium or ban.
The Weaponization of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies by UNIDIR, November 2014. This 9-pp briefing paper examines what may be understood by “meaningful human control.” It is the second in a series of UNIDIR papers on the weaponization of increasing autonomous technologies.
Autonomous Military Technologies by the Heritage Foundation, 6 August 2014. In its first publication on the matter, this 6-pp backgrounder by James Jay Carafano says autonomous technologies “may well be a defining characteristic of future generations of military systems” and endorses current US policy, which it interprets as reserving the use of lethal force for human operators.
Report of the ICRC meeting on autonomous weapons systems held 26-28 March 2014 by the ICRC, 9 May 2014. A 16-pp report on the ICRC’s first experts meeting on autonomous weapon systems, which brought together representatives from 21 States and 13 independent experts.
Lessons from CCW Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons for the Current Discussions about Autonomous Weapons by Mines Action Canada, May 2014. Memorandum prepared for CCW delegates.
Memo to CCW Delegates by Article 36, May 2014. This update of a November 2013 memo to CCW delegates suggests key areas for discussion and critical questions in efforts to address the concerns regarding autonomous weapons systems.
Shaking the Foundations: The Human Rights Implications of Killer Robots by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, May 2014. This 26-page report considers the human rights law implications of fully autonomous weapons. The groups also issued the 27-page 12 Key Arguments.
Framing Discussions on the Weaponization of Increasingly Autonomous Technologies by UNIDIR, April 2014. This 14-pp paper makes four observations for policy makers’ consideration as they approach discussions both in multilateral fora such as the CCW and the Human Rights Council, as well in their national policy dialogues.
Deadly Decisions – 8 objections to killer robots by PAX (formerly IKV Pax Christi), Feb. 2014. This 32-page report by Dutch non-governmental organization PAX, a co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, highlights eight objections to killer robots and explains why a comprehensive and pre-emptive ban on these weapons is necessary.
New technologies and warfare edition of the International Review of the Red Cross, Summer 2012 but released mid-2013. This edition of the quarterly journal by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) features articles by several campaigners: Dr. Peter Asaro of ICRAC on banning autonomous weapons systems, Prof. Noel Sharkey of ICRAC on autonomous robot warfare, and Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash of Article 36 on the role of civil society in the development of standards on new weapons.
Study on the human rights implications of the usage of drones and unmanned robots in warfare by Dr. Nils Melzer for the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for External Policies (DROI), May 2013. This 54-page study finds that “[f]or the foreseeable future … any application of military force through armed drones must necessarily remain under the control of a human operator.” It recommends that the European Union launch an intergovernmental consensus-building process including experts meetings on “legal constraints and/or ethical reservations.” See the Synopsis by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots on this study.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, 9 Apr. 2013. This 22-page report examines ethical, legal, policy, technical, and other concerns with robotic weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator. It urges an immediate moratorium on lethal autonomous robots until an international agreement is reached. See also this Synopsis.
Killer Robots: UK Government Policy on Fully Autonomous Weapons by Article 36, 19 Apr. 2013. This 5-page policy paper describes the United Kingdom’s current doctrine on fully autonomous weapons as confused and lists a number of areas where policy needs further elaboration if it is not to be so ambiguous as to be meaningless.
Review of the 2012 US Policy on Autonomy in Weapons Systems by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, 16 Apr. 2013. This 9-page briefing paper reviews the US Department of Defense public policy directive on autonomy in weapons systems issued on 21 November 2012.
Critical Issues Fact Sheet on Fully Autonomous Weapons by WILPF’s Reaching Critical Will. This 3-page (PDF) fact sheet issued in mid-2013 provides an introduction to key concerns over fully autonomous weapons and efforts by the UN, governments, and civil society to address them.
Combat Drones – Killing Drones: A Plea against Flying Robots by Marcel Dickow and Hilmar Linnenkamp for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs/Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Feb. 2013. This 8-page publication was issued in German in December 2012 and in English in February 2013. SWP held a seminar on “Unmanned military systems: The challenges to arms control and warfare” in Berlin in May 2013.
Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, 19 Nov. 2012. This 50-page report outlines the organizations’ concerns with fully autonomous weapons, which would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention, and calls for governments to preemptively ban these weapons. Authored by Bonnie Docherty, who has written all subsequent reports by Human Rights Watch on this topic. See also this 5-page executive summary.
“I Quit My Job to Protest My Company’s Work on Building Killer Robots” by Liz O’Sullivan, for ACLU, 6 March 2019. O’Sullivan describes her decision to quit her job at artificial intelligence company Clarifai, and lays out the six reasons why she believes “killer robots are genuinely terrifying”.
“Will There Be a Ban on Killer Robots?” by Adam Satariano, The New York Times, 19 October 2018. This article reviews the status of diplomatic talks on fully autonomous and the various perspectives on the need for global policy regulating the ability of “software and algorithms making life-or-death decisions”.
“South Africa should lead effort to ban killer robots” by Thompson Chengeta, Mail & Guardian, 11 April 2018. Chengeta makes the case for African leadership of the effort to retain meaningful human control over weapons systems and the use of force.
“Autonomous Weapon Systems and Strategic Stability” by Jürgen Altmann and Frank Sauer, Survival, October–November 2017. This article argues that “maintaining meaningful human control over the use of weapons systems and life-and-death decision-making in warfare is a worthy and sensible goal for legal, ethical and strategic reasons.”
“Attack of the Killer Robots” by Sarah Topal, Buzzfeed, 26 August 2016. This 8,000-word long-read profiles the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and includes the author’s observations of the third CCW meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems held in April 2016.
“Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Who to Kill” by John Markoff, The New York Times, 12 November 2014. This front-page article looks at the trend towards autonomous warfare by the United States, Israel, Norway, and the UK.
“Transcending Complacency on Superintelligent Machines” by Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek in the Huffington Post, 19 April 2014. This brief statement by science luminaries urges caution in the development of artificial intelligence and notes the calls for an international treaty to ban autonomous weapon systems that can choose and eliminate their own targets.
“US killer robot policy: Full speed ahead” by Mark Gubrud in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, 20 September 2013. Gubrud reviews the November 2012 policy directive issued by the US Department of Defense on autonomy in weapons systems and concludes that it green-lights the development, testing, and use of autonomous weapons technology, without delay.
“Killer Robots and the Rule of Law” by Angela Kane in the Huffington Post, 15 July 2013. The first article by the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs on what she says “many now call killer robots,” a challenge requiring “some global standards.” Kane promotes the “UN’s disarmament forums” and UN General Assembly to address the implications of killer robots.
“Beware the Killer Robots: Inside the Debate over Autonomous Weapons” by Charli Carpenter, Foreign Affairs, 3 July 2013. Carpenter outlines some of the strategies adopted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and presents University of Massachusetts public opinion poll/survey confirming concern among the US public “over outsourcing kill decisions to machines.”
“Rosa’s Dystopia: The Moral Downside of Coming Autonomous Weapons Systems” by Lt. Brendon Mills for Best Defense, Foreign Policy, 18 Jun. 2013. A lieutenant in the US Marine Corps, Mills published this piece in his personal capacity. Mills cautions, “if humans don’t fight our wars, we’ll have more wars and our families will be the enemy’s primary targets.” See also Robots causing a fading warrior spirit? by Col. Shane Riza, Foreign Policy, 17 Jun. 2013.
“Examining Autonomous Weapon Systems from a Law of Armed Conflict Perspective” by Maj. Jeffrey S. Thurnher, U.S. Naval War College, 11 Jun. 2013. Major Thurnher is a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. This 15-page working draft chapter for the publication New Technologies and the Law of Armed Conflict. In October 2012, Thurnher published: No One at the Controls: Legal Implications of Fully Autonomous Targeting.
““Killer Robots” Double Standards? Blind Faith?” by Michael Aaronson, e-International Relations, 7 Jun. 2013. Sir Aaronson is Co-Director of cii, the Centre for International Intervention at the University of Surrey, and former head of Save the Children UK. He revisits his previous article entitled “Robots don’t kill people, it’s the humans we should worry about.”
“Prevent ‘killer robots’ deciding when to kill on battlefield” by Mary Wareham, Public Service Europe, 30 May 2013. Wareham reviews the first-ever UN report on lethal autonomous robotic weapons and describes its presentation to the Human Rights Council in a debate where two dozen countries spoke. All agreed that this is an issue of concern that must be addressed in a timely fashion and none asked why action is needed.
“The Coming of ‘Killer Robots’” by Christopher Coker, e-International Relations, 16 May 2013. Coker, an LSE Professor and author of Warrior Geeks (2013), looks at how “robotics is the future of war.” He says questions where we are heading on lethal autonomous weapons systems are warranted as “the future is not a destiny, it is a choice.”
“UN report wants moratorium on killer robots” by Peter James Spielmann, Associated Press, 2 May 2013. In its first article on the subject, Associated Press reviews the UN report calling for a moratorium on “killer robots that can attack targets without any human input ‘should not have the power of life and death over human beings.'”
“On Banning Autonomous Lethal Systems: Human Rights, Automation and the Dehumanizing of Lethal Decision-making” by Peter Asaro in International Review of the Red Cross. This article was prepared for Issue 94 (886), a special issue on “new technologies and warfare.” Asaro argues in favour of a ban on autonomous lethal weapons systems, based on a foundation of human rights and humanitarian principles that are not only moral, but legal.
“The Point of No Return’” by John Knefel, Rolling Stone, 30 April 2013. Knefel reviews debate surrounding the question of whether robots on the battlefield should “be able to decide to kill you on their own?” He looks at the UN report by Christof Heyns and emphasizes the report’s recommendation that a moratorium on these weapons is urgently undertaken, noting the report’s finding that killer robots could “denigrate the value of life itself.”
“Activists, UN put ‘killer robots’ in the crosshairs” by Nidhi Subbaraman, NBC Future Tech, 29 Apr. 2013. This article on the trend towards autonomy looks at the campaign’s outreach at the UN in New York and describes Wired for War author Peter W. Singer of Brookings Institution as an “ombudsman in the growing debate over robotic warfare”.
“Smart Drones” by Bill Keller, The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2013. Keller’s overview of the challenges posed by fully autonomous weapons concludes, “If war is made to seem impersonal and safe, about as morally consequential as a video game, I worry that autonomous weapons deplete our humanity. As unsettling as the idea of robots’ becoming more like humans is the prospect that, in the process, we become more like robots.”
“With Drone Warfare, America Approaches the Robo-Rubicon” by Maj. Gen. (Ret) Robert H. Latiff and Patrick J. McCloskey, The Wall Street Journal, 15 Mar. 2013. Latiff and McCloskey reflect on ethical, moral and other considerations of weapons with ever-increasing autonomy, noting “The problem is that robotic weapons eventually will make kill decisions on the battlefield with no more than a veneer of human control. Full lethal autonomy is no mere next step in military strategy: It will be the crossing of a moral Rubicon. Ceding godlike powers to robots reduces human beings to things with no more intrinsic value than any object.”
“Say no to killer robots” by Noel Sharkey, The Engineer, 11 Mar. 2013. Sharkey introduces the International Campaign for Robotic Arms Control’s “Scientists’ Call” for a “ban on the development and deployment of weapon systems in which the decision to apply violent force is made autonomously.” The full text of the call, which is aimed at “Computer Scientists, Engineers, Artificial Intelligence experts, Roboticists and professionals from related disciplines” is available here.
“The Rise of the Machines” by Lt-Col. Douglas A. Pryer, Military Review, Mar.-Apr. 2013. Pryer argues that increasingly “perfect” weapons help perpetuate wars and endanger the United States. He warns against a world in which fully autonomous weapons “stalk and kill any human deemed ‘a legitimate target’ by their controllers and programmers.
“Robot warriors: Lethal machines coming of age” by Jonathan Marcus, BBC News Magazine, 3 Mar. 2013. As part of a “What If” series looking at the future, Marcus interviews key individuals including Ron Arkin, Noel Sharkey, and Jody Williams about how military robotics technology may be used or should be controlled.
“Killer robots must be stopped, say campaigners” by Tracy McVeigh, The Observer, 23 Feb. 2013. McVeigh profiles a new global campaign to persuade nations to ban fully autonomous weapons before they reach the production stage.
“Terminating the Terminator” by Wendell Wallach, Science Progress, 29 Jan. 2013. Wallach proposes that we “establish an international principle that machines should not be making decisions that are harmful to humans. This principle will set parameters on what is and what is not acceptable.”
“Is it time to ban autonomous killer robots?” by Ryan Whitwam, ExtremeTech, 22 Nov. 2012. Whitwam highlights some of the main problems with fully autonomous weapons, including lack of compassion and accountability.
“A dangerous future of killer robots by Tom Malinowski, The Washington Post, 23 Nov. 2012. This opinion piece discusses the ways that fully autonomous weapons would not be able to make ethical decisions on the battlefield and concludes that if the US takes the initiative, it will be possible to create a treaty that bans “offensive weapons capable of killing without human intervention.”
“The Future of Global Warfare: Killer Robots” by Steve Goose, Public Service Europe, 20 Nov. 2012. Goose makes the case for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons, citing military planning documents that identify these weapons as the future of warfare. He concludes, “More investment means the more such weapons will become part of plans and doctrine for future fighting. Killer robots need to be stopped now, before it is too late.”
“Autonomy in the Battlespace” by Markus Wagner, University of Miami School of Law, 12 Nov. 2012. Wagner analyzes independently operating weapon systems and the challenges that autonomous weapon systems pose with respect to compliance with the law of armed conflict. He concludes that current technology is incapable being operated within the existing framework of the law of armed conflict.
“Swarming Killing Machines” by Frank Rieger, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 24 Sep. 2012. Author and programmer Daniel Suarez discusses his new novel “Kill Decision” on a possible future where autonomous weapons technology has proliferated so widely that it is impossible to determine who is behind an attack. Suarez expresses concern that “there’s currently no international legal framework for … fully autonomous robotic weaponry.”