In late May, I addressed a panel on the militarization of digital spaces – specifically on how Israeli authorities use surveillance technologies to deepen systemic discrimination against Palestinians. I warned that the use of autonomy in weapons systems was a dangerous part of this trend and highlighted the urgent need for an international legal response. ......Israeli authorities are also developing autonomous weapons systems. These trends, globally reflect a slide towards digital dehumanization, and in the case of Israel this means of Palestinians. ... A senior Israeli defense official said recently that authorities are looking at “the ability of platforms to strike in swarms, or of combat systems to operate independently, of data fusion and of assistance in fast decision-making, on a scale greater than we have ever seen.”Incorporating artificial intelligence and emerging technologies into weapons systems raises a host of ethical, humanitarian, and legal concerns for all people, including Palestinians. Campaigners have called for the adoption of a treaty containing prohibitions and restrictions on autonomous weapons systems, which many countries, including Palestine, have joined.Autonomous weapons systems could help automate Israel’s uses of force. These uses of force are frequently unlawful and help entrench Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians. Without new international law to subvert the dangers this technology poses, the autonomous weapon systems Israel is developing today could contribute to their proliferation worldwide and harm the most vulnerable.
In order to ensure the legal use of a lethal autonomous weapon system, the characteristics and capabilities of each system must be adapted to the complexity of its intended environment of use. Where deemed necessary, the warfare environment could be simplified for the system by, for example, limiting the system's operation to a specific territory, during a limited timeframe, against specific types of targets, to conduct specific kinds of tasks, or other such limitations which are all set by a human, or, for example, if. _ necessary, it could. be programmed to refrain from action, or require and wait for input from human decision-makers when the legality of a specific action is unclear. Indeed, appropriate human judgment is injected throughout the various phases of development, testing, review, approval, and decision to employ a weapon system. The end goal would be for the system's capabilities to be adapted to the operational complexities that it is expected to encounter, in a manner ensuring compliance with the Laws of Armed Conflict. In this regard, LAWS are not different from many other weapon systems which do exist today, including weapons whose legal use is already regulated under the CCW.
In our view, there is even a good reason to believe that LAWS might ensure better compliance with the Laws of Armed Conflict in comparison to human soldiers. In many ways, LAWS could be more predictable than humans on the battlefield. They are not influenced by feelings of pressure, fear or vengeance, and may be capable of processing information more quickly and precisely than a person. Experience shows that whenever sophisticated and precise weapons have been employed on the battlefield, they have led to increased protection of both civilians and military. forces. Thus, Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems may serve to uphold in an improved manner, the ideals of both military necessity and humanitarian concern - the two pillars upon which the Laws of Armed Conflict rest.
Israel's history in incorporating human rights laws and protecting civilians in its development of weapons is unparalleled, with the possible exception of the US - and therefore not something that HRW wants anyone to know about.
I even think AI is going to improve warfare, when it has to happen, by reducing wartime death rates dramatically. Every war is characterized by terrible decisions made under intense pressure and with sharply limited information by very limited human leaders. Now, military commanders and political leaders will have AI advisors that will help them make much better strategic and tactical decisions, minimizing risk, error, and unnecessary bloodshed.
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