What solutions are available?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Position

We do not need to be resigned to an inevitable future with Slaughterbots. The global community has successfully prohibited classes of weaponry in the past, from biological weapons to landmines.

As with those efforts, the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) recommends that states adopt new legally binding rules to regulate lethal autonomous weapons.

Importantly, the ICRC does not recommend a prohibition of all military applications of AI – only of specific types of autonomous weapons. There are many applications of military AI already in use that do not raise such concerns, such as automated missile defense systems.

The ICRC Position

The ICRC is recommending three core pillars:

1: No human targets

Prohibition on autonomous weapons that are designed or used to target humans (“Slaughterbots”).

2: Restrict unpredictability

Prohibition on autonomous weapons with a high degree of unpredictable behaviour.

3: Human control

Regulations on other types of autonomous weapons combined with a requirement for human control.

Their full position can be found here:

Global debate

What is the current debate around lethal autonomous weapons?

UN CCW in Geneva - Development of A New Legally Binding Protocol

The United Nations' Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva established a Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons to debate this issue and to develop a new "normative and operational framework" for consideration by states.

Several years ago, this group produced a set of eleven non-binding Guiding Principles on Lethal Autonomous Weapons from which to develop a new instrument. The group is expected to share the output of those discussions in a report to states for the Sixth Review Conference in December 2021. This is the key opportunity for states to agree on a new legally binding protocol to the CCW that would prohibit autonomous weapons that target humans, as they have done in the past with other types of weapons, such as blinding lasers. With a rapid increase in use cases over the last year, this is the CCW's last chance to deliver on the ICRC's recommendation of new law.

Our Common Agenda - The Future of the United Nations

The U.N. Secretary General presented a 25-year vision for the future of global cooperation, and reinvigorated inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism, at the 2021 General Assembly. This report identifies "establishing internationally agreed limits on lethal autonomous weapons systems" as key to humanity's successful future.