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The Drivocopter. Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

Leadership Challenges from the Deployment of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems: How Erosion of Human Supervision Over Lethal Engagement Will Impact How Commanders Exercise Leadership

Paddy Walker
RUSI Journal, 6 May 2021
The rise of autonomous weapon systems requires a reassessment of how humans wage war.

Lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) – robotic weapons that have the ability to sense and act unilaterally depending on how they are programmed – will be capable of selecting targets and delivering lethality without any human interaction. This technology may still be in its infancy, but both semi-autonomous and other precursor systems are already in service. This, argues Paddy Walker, requires a material step change in both hardware and software but, once deployed, posits a significant change in how humans wage war. This article considers the behavioural and leadership challenges that arise from the deployment of such weapons and how unsupervised engagements might degrade the commander’s craft.

BANNER IMAGE: The Drivocopter at the 2020 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Subterranean Urban Challenge. The challenge aims to improve the decision-making autonomy of robots. Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Dr Paddy Walker
Associate Fellow

Dr Paddy Walker is Managing Director of the Leon Group, a fifth-generation multi-asset family office where he has been since 1992. A... read more

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