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Military Technology | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #55

Military Technology

Be it resolved, autonomous weapons will make warfare more humane.

Guests
Robert Work
Peter Asaro

About this episode

Trillions of dollars each year are poured into developing new technologies that redefine the art of war. And the next frontier of military technology will bring the world of science fiction into reality: fully autonomous weapons. Supporters of autonomous weapons argue that it is imperative that we develop artificial intelligence capable of making tough decisions at an extraordinary speed. They argue that this new technology will limit civilian casualties and avoid human error that inevitably costs lives. They argue that these weapons will be necessary to combat hostile governments, and failing to invest in the future of warfare is an existential threat to the international order. Without them, we risk a future of greater violence and fewer freedoms.

But there is another camp that feels the risk of these weapons is far too great for anyone to possess. They argue that the human cost of war serves as a deterrent, and without that deterrent, war will become more common and more brutal. Fully autonomous weapons will make it easier and cheaper to kill people, creating more death and destruction than is absolutely necessary. They argue machines are incapable of fully understanding the value of a human life, and life and death decisions must not be left to AI. The only answer is for the use of autonomous weapons to be banned entirely.

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Guests

Robert Work

“I think very strongly that autonomy has made warfare more humane already and will make it even more so in the future.”

Robert Work

“I think very strongly that autonomy has made warfare more humane already and will make it even more so in the future.”

Robert Orton Work is an American national security professional who served as the 32nd United States Deputy Secretary of Defense for both the Obama and Trump administrations from 2014 to 2017. Prior to that, Work was the United States Under Secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2013, and before that served as a colonel in the United States Marine Corps. Work retired in 2001 and worked as a civilian at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) and the George Washington University in various positions relating to military and strategic study. From 2013 to 2014, he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). After his time as Deputy Secretary of Defense, he went on to serve on the Board of Raytheon.

Peter Asaro

“Making warfare more humane would be to reduce warfare and conflict. And by the very nature of automating warfare you are encouraging more conflict and more warfare because it's going to be cheaper.”

Peter Asaro

“Making warfare more humane would be to reduce warfare and conflict. And by the very nature of automating warfare you are encouraging more conflict and more warfare because it's going to be cheaper.”

Dr. Asaro is Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York City. He is the co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and has written on lethal robotics from the perspective of just war theory and human rights. Dr. Asaro's research also examines agency and autonomy, liability and punishment, and privacy and surveillance as it applies to consumer robots, industrial automation, smart buildings, aerial drones and autonomous vehicles. 

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