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Force Design (Spotlight Brief 6/21)

The content in this article is an extract of Spotlight Brief 6/21.

Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems: Organizational and Political Consequences

The Philosophical Journal of Conflict and Violence – Jun 2021

Paul Dumouchel is interested in how Autonomous Weapon Systems will change Army’s ability to project power, affect the composition of armed forces, and affect the power relationships within them. He makes several thought-provoking observations related to Army structure and force design more broadly. A standout one is militaries actively seek and resist technological innovations. Resistance is often due to cultural or social factors that reflect the composition of the different army corps. For instance, some pilots have been strongly opposed to the development of fully autonomous combat planes or drones. Resistance may also be broader – many officers are unsure to what level autonomous systems can be trusted and how they will fit into existing chains of command. Dumouchel asserts Autonomous Weapon Systems increase the distance between the weapon’s operator and the theatre of war, consequently decreasing the importance of physically capturing territory and create a new class of ‘absent warrior combatants.’ These personnel are not physically present when violence takes place; however, are directly involved in the use of force. While some tentatively explore the psychological cost of this, no consideration of effectiveness exists. The article also stresses these weapons are only autonomous as part of a larger complex system. For this reason, the introduction of Autonomous Weapon Systems is likely to see an increase the number of people involved in any given operation, simply providing the enabling support to autonomous platforms. Dumouchel concludes that although more individuals will be involved in the deployment of these weapons, there will paradoxically be fewer people who are actually responsible for any decision to use lethal force.


‘The Legacy Of Afghanistan Is A Future Of Drone Wars’, Forbes, 17 Aug 21

‘Kill the Enemy, and Don’t Forget to Buy Milk on the Way Home – Preparing for the Ethical Challenges of Remote Operations in the Forever Wars,’ The Cove, 01 Jul 21

‘Principles for the Combat Employment of Weapon Systems with Autonomous Functionalities,’ Center for a New American Security, 28 Apr 21

‘Part I: Killer Robots: A Third Revolution in Warfare?’ Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 19 Mar 21

‘Why NATO Needs Lethal Autonomous Weapon Standards,’ Center For European Policy Analysis, 23 Feb 21

AI-Enabled Remote Warfare: Sustaining the Western Warfare Paradigm?

International Politics – Jul 2021

Ash Rossiter explains that the two prominent features of recent Western force design have been precision and distance. These concepts favoured due to a preference to prosecute remote warfare – the deliverance of lethal force through precision strike and uncrewed platforms – while avoiding ground forces with higher chances of casualties. Rossiter’s article questions the oft-uttered claim that advances in artificial intelligence will significantly enhance Army’s capacity to conduct remote warfare. He argues that the impact of technological progress in this space is overstated and artificial intelligence may actually “lean toward methods of warfare antithetical to the Western warfare paradigm”. Rossiter maintains that the advances in machine learning required to find and identify targets remotely are beyond near-term capabilities. The use of artificial intelligence in physical systems is also limited, partly due to a reluctance to take humans out of attack decisions for ethical, legal, and technical reasons. Rossiter concludes that rather than facilitating remote campaigns, emerging applications of artificial intelligence lend themselves more naturally to competition on quantity (mass over precision), such as swarms of drones overwhelming a defensive asset.


‘Pentagon Uses AI to Predict Enemy Moves Days in Advance,’ The Times, 03 Aug 21

‘Hundreds of AI Tools Have Been Built to Catch Covid. None of them Helped,’ MIT Technology Review, 30 Jul 21

‘Autonomous Weapons: Has the Line in the Sand Been Crossed?’ Clearance Jobs, 13 Jul 21

‘Remote Warfare in an Age of Distancing and Great Powers,’ International Relations, 27 Feb 21

‘Military Drones Are Changing, As Are the Wars They’re Fighting. Here’s What’s Happening Now,’ ABC, 26 Feb 21

Artificial Intelligence as Inventor: Exploring the Consequences for Patent Law

Intellectual Property Quarterly – Mar 21

Patent law, at is basis, is quite simple. A person comes up with a unique idea and they are recognised as the inventor. Furthermore, as it is a long-standing belief that computers cannot invent something, that creativity remains a uniquely human capability. Recently, artificial intelligence has challenged these fundamentals, which has caused the legal world to start considering what does have to change with patent law. In paralleling military ethical concerns, who is the owner of an AI generated patent and who is responsible for AI infringing a patent has no consensus. This article explores these issues, providing the major arguments within the field and finds, again similar to military ethics, that AI and patent law is likely to become a major international task for academics, lawyers and policy makers in the near future.


‘Only Humans, Not AI Machines, Get a U.S. Patent, Judge Says’, Bloomberg, 04 Sep 21

‘In a world first, South Africa grants patent to an artificial intelligence system’, The Conversation, 05 Aug 21

‘Can Artificial Intelligence Be Creative?’, Akkio, 02 Aug 21

‘Artificial intelligence can now be recognised as an inventor after historic Australian court decision’, ABC News, 01 Aug 21

‘AI And Creativity: Why OpenAI’s Latest Model Matters’, Forbes, 18 Jan 21

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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