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A French Opinion on the Ethics of Autonomous Weapons

War on the Rocks, 2 juin 2021

How will the world’s most powerful democracies deal with the ethical and legal dilemmas posed by the development of so-called “killer robots”, or lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) ? On the one hand, LAWS promise unparalleled operational advantages, like acting as a force multiplier, expanding the battlefield, and removing humans from dull, dirty, or dangerous missions. Authoritarian powers like China and Russia appear to be dedicating tremendous resources into pursuing these capabilities. On the other hand, giving autonomous weapons the authority to determine who lives or dies is an ethical, practical, and legal nightmare. A couple of states have well-documented policies, most notably the United States and the United Kingdom. This article focuses on France, which has begun the difficult work of thinking through the ethical problems associated with lethal autonomous weapons systems.

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