Within a few decades, perhaps sooner, robotic weapons will likely be able to pick and attack targets – including humans – with no human controller needed.
To a Pentagon actively conducting research in this area, the technology can increase the precision of drones and help keep more troops out of harm’s way. Others proponents add that it could reduce emotional and irrational human decision making on the battlefield, which can lead to atrocities large and small. Several countries are pursuing so-called lethal autonomous weapons systems.
But critics worry that taking humans out of the loop for life-or-death combat decisions is unethical and would lead to violations of human-rights laws as well as international laws governing combat. They are pushing for an outright ban on the development, deployment, and use of such weapons.