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In Search of the ‘Human Element’: International Debates on Regulating Autonomous Weapons Systems


The ‘weaponisation’ of artificial intelligence and robotics, especially their convergence in autonomous weapons systems (AWS), is a matter of international concern. Debates on AWS have revolved around (i) the identification of hallmarks of AWS with respect to other weapons; (ii) what it is that makes AWS destructive force especially troublesome from a normative standpoint; and (iii) steps the international community can take to allay these concerns. Of particular concern is the need to preserve the ‘human element’ in the use of force. A differentiated approach to this latter issue, which is also principled and prudential, may pave the way to a legally binding instrument to regulate AWS by establishing meaningful human control over all weapons systems.
Keywords: autonomous weapons systems; Convention on Conventional Weapons; meaningful human control; international humanitarian law; human dignity