Lethal Autonomous Weapons Need to be Regulated - But Not the Way Advocates Say

The development of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) is no longer just a concept of science fiction. With the potential of these weapons to cause destruction, there is an urgent need for an international approach to regulate these technologies, and a nonproliferation regime for LAWS could provide a strong starting point. An international legal nonproliferation regime could address this problem by mandating safety provisions to prevent copying of software, identifying the classes of software that should not be publicly available, restricting the transfer of sophisticated hardware, and criminalizing activities intended to further proliferation, including the financing of critical materials. Although it is impossible to prevent independent development of basic systems, such a regime would slow the spread of more sophisticated LAWS technologies.A nonproliferation regime could even be combined with a prohibition to govern these dangerous technologies. This has been seen in the past with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and could be used again in the case of LAWS. In tandem, nonproliferation and prohibition can even be a model for the regulation of other emerging technologies, including bioengineering and other forms of artificial intelligence. Nonproliferation may not be the ideal, but it can make the world a whole lot safer.

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