The technological capability for autonomous weapon systems that can detect and analyse complex environments, select targets and carry out an attack is likely to be reality one day—even if that day is far in the future. But the decision to weaponize these capabilities is not inevitable. International and national discussions must centre around which applications of these capabilities are acceptable, legal, and desirable when applied to the use of force.
What are the benefits, challenges and risks represented by the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies? Likewise what might be the long-term consequences—intentional and unintentional—of developing and deploying increasingly autonomous weapon systems? Broad and well-informed discussions of these topics will help us identify the areas that evoke clearer responses that can be the basis of policy development, and those that entail greater ambiguity or uncertainty—and therefore require deeper consideration and further analysis by States, researchers, the private sector and civil society.