UN Secretary General Releases Statement on International Humanitarian Law and Artificial Intelligence: Using the Past to Prepare for the Unknowable Future

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Friday, May 31, 2019
Evan Scheicher

On March 25, 2019, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres released an official statement to the Group of Governmental Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, which meets under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), in which he stated emphatically that “machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law.” Guterres’s statement is particularly timely because it points to a largely underdeveloped aspect of international law which must be addressed immediately: the lack of understanding on how AI and autonomous weapons systems (AWS) interact with existing international law. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming an integral part of war and warfare systems.The competition for advantages in war has manifested in recent years with the rapid progression of AWS is progressing rapidly and this manifestation seen as a highly destabilizing development.