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25/11/2021: Roundtable Series – The Future of Warfare

Roundtable I: The Rise of Autonomous Weapons

Killer-robots and autonomous lethal weapons seem to belong to a distant future worthy of a science fiction movie. Yet these weapons seem to be developing at a rapid speed, countries like China and Russia are already investing in such technology. Europe needs to question its strategy to better prepare for the future of military operations as autonomous weapons, relying on AI could have unprecedented benefits for Europe’s defence. At the same time there are ethical considerations and cyber risks associated with the use of autonomous weapons in security and defence. Is the rise of autonomous weapons a curse or a benefit for future warfare? We were lucky enough to discuss these topics with experts Patrick Bezombes, Dr. Catherine Tessier, and Laure De Rochegonde. 

Our panellists presented a precise picture of what autonomous weapons could look like, emphasizing the key difference between autonomy and automation. While automation is linked to increased efficiency, autonomous decision making in weapons systems was deemed problematic for military use as it would undermine the chain of command. This nuanced debate also pointed out the need for continued research and development despite ethical concerns for use.

Roundtable II: International Law and the Future of Cyber Warfare

In the future, ‘Cyber Attacks’ could cause massive destruction to any society dependent on computer networks. This could lead to human casualties and serious damage of infrastructure. Today, international society still lacks a coherent set of principles, rules, and norms governing state security and military operations in cyberspace. Are existing laws applicable to the future of cyber warfare?

Our impressive all-female panel of experts discussed the need to uphold international law and importance of healthy disagreement and debate in law-making and interpreting processes. They pointed to a key legal uncertainty of accountability and responsibility when it comes to cyber weapons or military uses of AI. They explained the importance of semantics when it comes to discussed “cyberspace” and “cyberweapons” and their problematic relations to international law.