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Automated weaponry has existed in some form for a very long time. In 1139, Pope Innocent II forbade the use of a dangerous new weapon against fellow Christians. It enabled a ‘point and click’ fire interface at a distance. Killing in this way was regarded as immoral. That weapon was of course the crossbow, and since then almost every new advance in weapons technology has had a bumpy ride into acceptability. Some, like chemical and biological weapons, did not make it.

 

Unmanned vehicles, which are the latest advance in autonomous or remotely operated systems, have recently appeared on the battlefield in a variety of different roles, principally for surveillance and reconnaissance and the disposal of unexploded ordnance. Neither of these poses much concern to the general public but the use of armed UAVs against suspected terrorists, armed robots for house clearance and reconnaissance and Israel's deployment of automated weapons for border patrol are more worrying.

 

This one day event will examine the military ethics of the use of autonomous systems and look at who is responsible for the actions undertaken by them. It will also look at the precedents and loop holes within international law that may be (already) exploited in the use of unmanned systems.

 

Finally, Hezbollah deployed drones against Israel during the 2006 Lebanese conflict. With the technology behind autonomous vehicles so readily available, the conference will assess what the implications of proliferation will be and whether new treaties will need to be drawn up limiting their use.

 

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