CQ Researcher provides award winning in-depth coverage of the most important issues of the day. Our reports are written by experienced journalists, footnoted and professionally fact-checked. Full-length articles include an overview, historical background, chronology, pro/con feature, plus resources for additional research. Graphics, photos and short "sidebar" features round out the reports. Shorter "Hot Topics" articles provide a solid introduction to subjects most in demand by students.
More than 40 countries — including the United States, Great Britain, Russia and China — are developing a new generation of robotic weapons that can be programmed to seek out and destroy enemy targets without direct human control. The push for autonomous machines has raised a host of legal and ethical questions and sparked concerns that the Geneva Conventions — international rules of war that date back to the 1860s — may not be adequate to control robotic warfare. Military experts say autonomous weapons could save lives by keeping soldiers out of harm's way and by using pinpoint accuracy to avoid civilian deaths and other collateral damage. But opponents fear the emerging technology might trigger a new arms race and encourage leaders to use force rather than diplomacy. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is developing revolutionary ways to supply and protect soldiers, including Kevlar underwear, invisible camouflage and customizable 3D-printed food.
|1914–1950s||World wars bring advances in weapons technology and firepower.|
|1980s–1990s||Advanced missiles and drones appear on the battlefield.|
|2000s–Present||With the U.S. fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the role of unmanned weapons grows.|
Can lethal autonomous weapons be operated ethically?
Professor of Robotics, Georgia Institute of Technology.
Professor of Media Studies, The New School; Cofounder, International Committee for Robot Arms Control.