Autonomous weapons, civilian safety, and regulation versus prohibition

Autonomous weapons capable of selecting and attacking targets without human intervention are already a reality. Today they are largely restricted to targeting military objects in unpopulated areas—but fast-developing computer systems with enormous processing power and robust algorithms for artificial intelligence may soon have nations making concrete choices about deploying fully autonomous weapons in urban warfare.But would automated warfare, as some observers claim, minimize collateral damage—or simply result in mass destruction? The answer isn’t clear. What’s clear is that targeting decisions made by human beings are often extremely bad. To be sure, it’s important to discuss the ethics of autonomous weapons and debate whether they should be banned, regulated, or left to develop without restrictions. But dehumanized killing in all its forms is ultimately the issue.Optimized casualties. First, what’s meant by…

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