Background Readings


Recent Articles on Autonomous Weapons Systems

Michael C. Horowitz and Paul Scharre
The Morality of Robotic War, NYT, May 26, 2015

Nicholas Carr
Automation Makes Us Dumb, WSJ, Nov 22, 2014

Jane Wakefield,
Robots Face New Creativity Test, BBC News, Nov, 21, 2014

Michael C. Horowitz and Paul Scharre
Killer Robots Save Lives. At Least Some of Them Do, Politico, Nov 19, 2014

John Markoff
Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill, NYT, Nov 11, 2014

Human Morality and the Problem of Intelligent Machines

Ronald  Arkin
Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant

John Searle
Minds, Brains, and Programs, 3 The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 417 (1980).

Robert Sheckley
Watchbird, Galaxy, Feb. 1953, at 74

David Cole
The Chinese Room Argument, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (June 2014)

The Law and Ethics of Autonomous Weapons Systems

Keith Abney, Patrick Lin and George Bekey.
Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design, Cal Poly (2008)

Kenneth Anderson, Matthew C. Waxman
Law and Ethics for Autonomous Weapons Systems: Why a Ban Won’t Work and How the Laws of War Can, Policy Review 2013, at 1.

U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) policy on autonomy in weapons: DoD Directive 3000.09
Autonomy in Weapon Systems, (2012)

Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions (Article 1 par. 2, Article 36)

Mary Ellen O’Connell
The Legal and Ethical Requirement That Humans Make Near-Time Lethal Decisions, in The American Way of Bombing Changing Ethical and Legal Norms from Flying Fortresses to Drones (Matthew Evangelista and Henry Shue editors, 2014)

Colin Allen, Wendell Wallach
Framing Robot Arms Control, 15 Ethics and Information Technology 125 (2013)

Chantal Grut
The Challenge of Autonomous Lethal Weapon Systems to International Law, 18.1 Journal of Conflict and Security Law 5 (2013)

Michael N. Schmitt
Autonomous Weapon Systems and International Humanitarian Law: Reply to the Critics, Harvard National Security Journal Features (Feb. 5, 2013, 2:07 PM)

UK Ministry of Defense, Joint Doctrine Note 2/11
The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The Rationality and Morality of Automaticity

Larry Alexander
The Doomsday Machine: Proportionality, Punishment and Prevention, 63.2 The Monist 199 (1980)

David Gauthier
Assure and Threaten, 690-721 Ethics, 104,4 (1994)

Gregory Kavka
The Toxin Puzzle, 33-36 Analysis 43,1 (1983)

Should “Killer Robots” be Banned?

Bonnie Docherty
The Trouble with Killer Robots: Why we need to ban fully autonomous weapons systems, before it’s too late

Uniquely Human? On Intuition, Mercy and Moral Decision Making

Martha Nussbaum
Equity and Mercy, 22.2 Philosophy and Public Affairs 83 (1993)

Deborah G. Johnson and Merel Noorman
Artefactual Agency and Artefactual Moral Agency

Noel E. Sharkey
The Evitability of Autonomous Robot Warfare, 94 International Review of the Red Cross 787 (2012)

On the Concept of Meaningful Human Control

Peter Asaro
On Banning Autonomous Weapon Systems: Human Rights, Automation, and the Dehumanization of Lethal Decision-Making, in Ethics of 21st Century Military Conflict 257-269 (Erica L. Gaston & Patti Tamara Lenard eds. 2012).

Shane Harris
Out of the Loop: The Human-free Future of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Ezzio Di Nucci & Fillipo Santoni de Dio
Who’s Afraid of Robots? Fear of Automation and the Ideal of Direct Control, in Roboethics in Film (Fiorella Battaglia & Nathalie Weidenfield eds. forthcoming).

Geoffrey S. Corn
Autonomous Weapon Systems: Managing the Inevitability of ‘Taking the Man out of the Loop’. Social Science Research Network, June 14, 2014.

William Marra and Sonia McNeil
Understanding ‘The Loop’: Regulating the Next Generation of War Machines. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 36 no. 3 (2013).

Mary Ellen O’Connell
Banning Autonomous Killing: The Legal and Ethical Requirement That Humans Make Near-Time Lethal Decisions

Responsibility for Acts of Intelligent Machines

Daniel C. Dennett
When Hal Kills, Who’s to Blame? Computer Ethics, in Hal’s Legacy: 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality 351-365 (David Stork ed. 1997).

Peter M. Asaro
A Body to Kick But Still No Soul to Damn: Legal Perspectives on Robotics, in Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics 169-186 (Keith Abney, George Bekey, & Patrick Lin eds., 2011)

Deborah G. Johnson
Technology with No Human Responsibility?

Deborah G. Johnson and Merel Noorman
Responsibility Practices in Robotic Warfare

Deborah G. Johnson and Merel Noorman
Negotiating Autonomy and Responsibility in Military Robots

Merel Noorman
Computing and Moral Responsibility, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (June 2014)

Reports and Memoranda

International Committee of the Red Cross
Autonomous Weapons Systems Technical, Military, Legal and Humanitarian Aspects (November 1, 2014)

International Committee of the Red Cross
Expert Meeting Report: Autonomous Weapon Systems, Technical, Military, Legal and Humanitarian Aspects (Geneva, Switzerland 26 to 28 March 2014)


Gabriella Blum
An Emerging Threats Essay: Invisible Threats

Bonnie Docherty
Shaking the Foundations: the Human Rights Implications of Killer Robots, Human Rights Watch (2014)

Mark Hagerott
Robots on the Battlefield: Contemporary Issues and Implications for the future, Chapter 3: Robots, Cyber, History, and War

Mark Hagerott
Limiting automation in a cyber-insecure world

Michael Hastings
The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret

Christof Heyns
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Michael C. Horowitz
Coming Next in Military Tech, 70.1 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 54 (2014)

Michael C. Horowitz
The Looming Robotics Gap: Why America’s Global Dominance in Military Technology is Starting to Crumble, Foreign Policy, May 5, 2014

Aaron M. Johnson
The Morality of Autonomous Robots, Journal of Military Ethics, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2013.

Deborah G. Johnson and Merel Noorman
Recommendations for Future Development of Artificial Agents

Deborah G. Johnson and Thomas M. Powers
Computers as Surrogate Agents, in Moral Philosophy and Information Technology 251-269 (Jeroen van de Hoen & John Weckert eds. 2008).

John F. Keane and Stephen S. Carr
A Brief History of Early Unmanned Aircraft

Gary E. Marchant et al.
International Governance of Autonomous Military Robots, 12 U. PA L. Rev. 2010 (2011)

John Markoff
Scientists Consider Repurposing Robots for Ebola

John Markoff
Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill

Nicholas Marsh
Defining the Scope of Autonomy: Issues for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Peace Research Institute Oslo (

Markus Wagner
The Dehumanization of International Humanitarian Law: Legal, Ethical, and Political Implications of Autonomous Weapons Systems

Wendell Wallach
Terminating the Terminator: What to do About Autonomous Weapons