Autonomous Weapons: Ethics

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 4 August 2022.

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Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to their policy paper Ambitious, Safe, Responsible: Our approach to the delivery of AI enabled capability in Defence, published on 15 June, what assessment they have made of the specific ethical problems raised by autonomous weapons that are used to target humans and which have been raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

We're very aware of the ethical concerns raised by numerous stakeholders including the ICRC around the potential misuse of AI in Defence, including its impact on humans and the potential use of autonomous systems in ways which might violate international law. We published the Ambitious, Safe, Responsible specifically in order to ensure clarity and support ongoing conversations around the UK approach.

With respect to autonomous weapons systems: the UK's focus is on setting clear international norms for the safe and responsible development and use of AI, to ensure compliance with International Humanitarian Law through meaningful and context-appropriate levels of human control. We propose development of a compendium of good practice mapped against a weapon systems' lifecycle which would provide a clear framework for the operationalisation of the eleven guiding principles agreed by the UN Group of Government Experts on Certain Conventional Weapons 2017-19.

We are keen to continue extensive discussions on this issue with the international community and NGOs on this issue, including through discussions at the UN.

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