Symposium: David Danks & Heather Roff, Automated and Autonomous Conflicts: AI, Ethics, and the Conduct of Hostilities

Conflicts—whether overt warfare or hostile actions that fall short of that threshold—are increasingly automated, and increasingly governed by autonomous systems. In the physical domain, autonomous weapons systems (including sophisticated sensor fusion), automated war gaming, and battle management software all involve transfer of (some) control to machines. In the electronic domain, information warfare, cyber-hostilities, and mass surveillance all require some degree of automation, whether because of the speed, complexity, or scale of the conflicts.

There have been numerous debates in academia, government, and the public sphere over the value and desirability of increasingly autonomous technologies; much of this debate has focused on their moral or legal permissibility. Surprisingly, however, these debates have rarely examined the ways in which artificial intelligence can fundamentally change the conduct of warfare and other conflicts. AI techniques and autonomous systems are not simply additional pieces on a fixed board; instead, they arguably change the very rules, norms, and practices of conflict. As a result, those systems can give rise to distinctive, novel moral problems for future battlefields and conflict spaces.

This symposium brings together an interdisciplinary set of scholars to look at the novel moral challenges, and broader moral implications, of developing and deploying increasingly automated and autonomous systems that rely on artificial intelligence. This symposium will focus on conflicts in both the physical and electronic domains, as well as both warfare and hostilities short of warfare. We expect symposium participants to examine not only weapons systems, but also cybersecurity and defense, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, targeting, and command & control. This symposium will touch on topics ranging from ethical applications of AI, to the changing face and scope of warfare, to the challenges of automation and autonomous systems in conflict situations. Talks in the symposium will cover multiple core topics and areas of the IACAP-16 conference. As such, we expect that it will be of wide interest and relevance for multiple attendees.

David Danks, Heather Roff, Ugo Pagallo, and Mariarosaria Taddeo