Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

Website of resources developed by Future of Life Institute.

Described as the third revolution in warfare after gunpowder and nuclear weapons, lethal autonomous weapons are systems that can identify, select and engage a target without meaningful human control. Many semi-autonomous weapons in use today rely on autonomy for certain parts of their system but have a communication link to a human that will approve or make decisions. In contrast, a fully-autonomous system could be deployed without any established communication network and would independently respond to a changing environment and decide how to achieve its pre-programmed goals. The ethical, political and legal debate underway has been around autonomy in the use of force and the decision to take a human life.

Lethal AWS may create a paradigm shift in how we wage war. They would allow highly lethal systems to be deployed in the battlefield that cannot be controlled or recalled once launched. Unlike any weapon seen before, they could also allow for the selective targeting of a particular group based on parameters like age, gender, ethnicity or political leaning (if such information was available). Because lethal AWS would greatly decrease personnel cost and could be easy to obtained at low cost (like in the case of small drones), small groups of people could potentially inflict disproportionate harm, making lethal AWS a new class of weapon of mass destruction.

There is an important conversation underway in how to shape the development of this technology and where to draw the line in the use of lethal autonomy. Includes an overview of the issue, plus the following resources:

  • FLI pledge and open letters
  • Videos and podcasts
  • AWS policy map
  • Why support a ban
  • Myths and facts
  • Further resources