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Locating Humanity Command Responsibility over Autonomous Weapons




Series: Work in Progress

Venue: D222, Rhind Building, St John Street, London EC1R 0JD

The weaponisation of human-machine relationships has been proactively sought throughout human history. It is now accentuated. The increase in human power can only be guaranteed by the maintenance of ‘effective’ or ‘meaningful’ control over non-human agents. In war such control guarantees the transmission of the particular blend of humanity and military necessity envisaged in the law. As the purchase of technology rises, it’s still human actions and responsibility, for better or worse.

Now, with the projected emergence of fully autonomous weapons or ‘killer robots’, we are envisaging emancipated tools. The envisaged loss of control causes concern, even panic. Ethicists obj ect, ethical lawyers declare incompatibility. Is war conclusively dehumanized and individual responsibility interrupted and lost?

This paper argues that autonomy in fact helps us articulate the essential superior-subordinate human-machine relationship. It explores an escalated genealogy of the ambition/angst in 20th century human-machine interaction and control alongside different understandings of the concept of command responsibility. It attempts to look at human/machine systems as similar to human/human systems and asks whether, and what kind of, international criminal law could trace responsibility to human beings for war crimes committed by/through autonomous weapons.

The paper develops a strand of command responsibility based on the idea that the commander ‘should have known’ that crimes were likely to be committed. It further argues that killer robots bring out omission and potentially even strict liability aspects of command responsibility. Weaponisation of subordinates and the distance achieved through weapons come full circle.

At the same time, the establishment of responsibility based on a commander’s position and role can be in tension with full reliance on liberal criminal law’s understanding of blameworthiness. In bringing out the omission and strict liability in command responsibility, the law of weapons technology can be used to debate structural and systematic aspects of responsibility and criminality.

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When and where

3.00pm - 5.00pmWednesday 6th December 2017

D222 Rhind Building City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1R 0JD United Kingdom

Contact Details

CLS Research Events

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom
0207 040 3410

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