Day: June 20, 2013

War Law, the “Public Conscience” and Autonomous Weapons

In the Guardian this morning, Christof Heyns very neatly articulates  some of the legal arguments with allowing machines the ability to target human beings autonomously – whether they can distinguish civilians and combatants, make qualitative judgments, be held responsible for war crimes. But after going through this back and forth, Heyns then appears to reframe the debate entirely away from the law and into the realm of morality:

The overriding question of principle, however, is whether machines should be permitted to decide whether human beings live or die.

But this “question of principle” is actually a legal argument itself, as Human Rights Watch pointed out last November in its report Losing Humanity (p. 34): that the entire idea of out-sourcing killing decisions to machine is morally offensive, frightening, even repulsive, to many people, regardless of utilitarian arguments to the contrary: Continue reading


Thursday Morning Linkage

Above, I’ve posted another photo of the crack Duck blogging team (that’s me upper left, my dissertation advisor is lower right). Right now, I’m en route to a conference in Norway so my 22 month old son has prepared the following post of Thursday Morning Linkage. (Well, if he had, there would be lots of posts about dogs. He loves dogs.) In any case, you’re stuck with my persistent interest in conservation, energy, and health issues.

  • More polio vaccination workers killed in Pakistan, twenty this year
  • A long expose on poaching, even more troubling news about the criminal syndicates involved in the trade
  • China is cracking down on air pollution (really, finally, maybe)
  • Obama administration is beginning its regulatory approach to greenhouse gases, beginning with an upward revision of the social costs of carbon?
  • Also, O admin ratchets up measures to reduce sulfur hexafluoride, a potent greenhouse gas

Continue reading


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