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Battle Bots

How the World Should Prepare Itself for Robotic Warfare

Afghan residents look at a robot that is searching for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) during a road clearance patrol by the U.S. army in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan November 23, 2011. Umit Bektas / Reuters

People living today find their lives bookended by two eras of weaponry: nuclear arms and the emerging threat of lethal autonomous weapons. On the one hand, nuclear Armageddon is still a real risk as states fail to live up to their legal obligations to disarm and dispose of their nuclear stockpiles. Lethal autonomous robotic weaponry, on the other hand, offers a glimpse of war’s future—and few if any rules govern the use of drones, a precursor technology for future autonomous weapons. Globally agreed norms and rules must be created and strengthened throughout all areas of weapons proliferation so that future generations are safeguarded from large-scale violence. To set realistic and reliable international norms for dangerous and new weapons, states must establish the necessary conditions for global cooperation. If world leaders want a less violent world, they must set the guidelines and improve the current international order.

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