The Rise of Killer Robots: Should machines be allowed to kill us?

© 2015 Russell Christian for Human Rights Watch

For the past four years, diplomats, academic experts, and NGO representatives have come together for a number of meetings in Geneva to discuss regulating the so-called Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. While drones have become a normal part of military operations, LAWS, or as those critical of them like to call them, killer robots, are still in a stage of early development. What makes them special is that they are capable of navigating through air space searching for potential targets, and once they have found them, they can use their weapons to select them and fire on them, all on their own. Put bluntly, these are machines that – once deployed – can kill humans on their own without human interference. While the use of drones – especially in so-called targeted killing operations – already raise a myriad of legal, ethical, and technical questions (which I discuss in some more detail here), LAWS add an additional layer of complexity, leading to three problems when it comes to granting them the agency to kill: the laws of war and the issue of emotions, responsibility, and de-humanization.

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Interview: Kenneth Abbott on Researching IR and Living in Berlin

In the second episode of our new interview series, host Lynda Iroulo is interviewing Kenneth W. Abbott, visiting researcher at the WZB and Professor of Law at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Topics include the research projects he is involved with at the WZB, his interests and experiences in researching IR, and living and working in Berlin. 

Find a short transcription of the interview below or listen to the full one here:

Iroulo: What will you be working on during your time at the WZB? 

Abbott: Well, I already have three or four ongoing projects of my own, but I would also really like to spend more time with the researchers at the WZB and work on the projects taking place here. So far, I have been involved with a couple of the ongoing projects in the Global Governance unit. One project I have engaged with is the ‘norm interface research project’, which overlaps some of my work. In relation to that, one of the issues we are concerned with is the different ways in which governors – that is, whoever is doing governance, internationally or domestically – govern indirectly.

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My Fury about Trump’s Fire

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Shortly before Christmas, I sent the corrected proofs for my new book back to my publisher. My English editor quipped that we should send the book to Donald Trump so he can read it. In view of the recently leaked daily reading performance of the President, I immediately calculated that, taking into account the summer breaks, he would probably finish it shortly before Christmas 2019. However, shortly after reading the December 2017 “National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS)” with the President’s preface, I suspected that he had already read at least the first chapter of my book.

This first chapter deals with the normative foundation of the global political system. Accordingly, one can speak of a global political system if three conditions are met:

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Interview: Michael Zürn on Global Governance and “Orders Beyond Borders”

In the first episode of our new interview series, host Lynda Iroulo is interviewing Michael Zürn, Director of the Global Governance Research Unit at the WZB and Professor of International Relations at the Free University in Berlin. Topics include the new blog, populism and international relations – and finding out with which early political theorist Michael would like to dine.

Find a short transcription of the interview below or listen to the full one here:

Iroulo: Could you briefly introduce the Global Governance Unit and the Blog?

Zürn: The Global Governance Unit at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre consists of a group of scholars who work essentially on issues related to international institutions – such as how they work, what effect they have on world politics, and how they collaborate in a global governance system – as well as on the institutional theory of international politics. We are a lively and diverse group of approximately twenty-five people, consisting of doctoral students, postdocs, research assistants, and myself.

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