Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Law and New Technologies In Warfare

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Knut Doermann, head of the legal division of the International Committee of the Red Cross, military and legal experts are discussing "Australia: New technologies and warfare". Questions of the legal and ethical questions of technology in warfare are not hypothetical. Previously I worked at the Department of Defence. Now I teach ICT ethics to students, some of whom work on radar, UAV and other military systems. Yesterday I attended a seminar on revolutionary new nano-technology, which has its own ethical issues.

Dr. Doermann in his opening address drew a distinction between "drone" which are remotely controlled by a human operator and autonomous systems. I and no a lawyer, or an ethicist, but in my view there is still no such distinction. The person who launches a smart weapon is accountable for the effect it has. Before they launch the weapon they must be satisfied its effect will be legal. If the weapon fails to perform as the soldier expected, then they may share responsibly with the designer and builder.

Machines already take life and death decisions every day, in motor vehicles, medical devices and air traffic control. I warn my students that when their programming goes wrong, they may be held to account in court for their actions.
Join the ICRC and the Australian Centre for Military and Security Law for a thought-provoking panel discussion on new technologies and warfare, as we launch the latest edition of the International Review of the Red Cross.

Event Info

Where: Australian National University, Canberra, 6pm-7.30pm
When:  19.11.2013
From nanotechnology enhanced weapons to autonomous robots, advancements in technology herald the possibility of a quantum leap in how war is waged. In this timely discussion, we bring together local and international experts to put the spotlight on the potential legal, ethical and humanitarian implications of such a profound change to armed conflict as we know it.


Knut Doermann, head of the legal division of the ICRC
Ian Henderson, Group Captain, RAAF and director of the Military Law Centre
Hitoshi Nasu, senior lecturer, ANU College of Law and acting co-director of Australian Centre for Military and Security Law
Eve Massingham, international humanitarian law officer, the Australian Red Cross
Chaired by Helen Durham, director IHL, strategy, planning & research, the Australian Red Cross

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