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The ethics of killer robots. Developments, characteristics and consequences of Artificial Warfare

On Wednesday 25 November 2020, I attended an online conference organised by Rome-based Scuola Critica del Digitale (Centro Riforma dello Stato) and Forum Disuguaglianze e Diversità.

I chaired a panel on “The ethics of killer robots. Developments, characteristics and consequences of Artificial Warfare” with illustrious speakers Professor Teresa Numerico (Roma Tre University), Dr Letizia Oddo (University of Rome Tor Vergata), Stefano Quintarelli (computer scientiest, former MP) and Professor Guglielmo Tamburrini (University of Naples “Federico II”).

In recent years, pressure is mounting to deploy lethal autonomous weapons AKA killer robots. AI and robotics experts, as well as NGOs around the world (e.g. Stop Killer Robots and Humanr Rights Watch) are campaigning for a ban on these systems but the United Nations have not taken a clear stance yet.

The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating existing tensions between current and emergeing powers. The perfect storm is completed by the fact that as soon as robot killers are deployed in a war, the esclation of the conflict would become incontrollable.

Consequently, to reach a consensus on the illegality and immorality of lethal autonomous weapons has never been more important. And yet, there are still people who argue that it is possible to design killer robots that comply with international human rights law, the laws of war, and the principles of ethics. The growing trend of ‘ethical AI’ risks being a dangerous ideological device that can be exploited to appease civil society’s concerns and thus develop dangerous AI applications in a space that is purposefully represented as lawless.

My research on killer robots can be downloaded for free here.

The full video of the conference is here:

Published by guidonld

I am Associate Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Privacy Law at the University of Stirling, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, where I lead the Media Law and Information Technology Law courses. I am an expert in the legal issues of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, and blockchain. Holder of a PhD (Unipa), a postdoc (QMUL), and an HEA Fellowship, I have a strong publication and bidding record and my works on Intellectual Property, Data Protection, Information Technology Law, Consumer Protection, and Human Rights have been cited by the EU Court of Justice’s Advocate General, the House of Lords, the European Commission, and the Council of Europe. Outside of the University of Stirling, I am Director of ‘Ital-IoT’ Centre of Multidisciplinary Research on the Internet of Things, Visiting Professor at the University of Macerata, Fellow of the Nexa Center for Internet and Society, Fellow of NINSO Northumbria Internet & Society Research Group, and I serve on the Executive Committee of the Society of Legal Scholars, the oldest and largest society of law academics in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Most of my publications can be downloaded for free on SSRN, ResearchGate,, and LawArXiv.

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