School of Informatics

#3 'Autonomous weapons'

Autonomous Weapons Banner

Third in a series of public discussions, the event will cover the ethics of using AI advances in modern warfare.

About the event

Advances in artificial intelligence can transform modern warfare: future fully autonomous weapon systems could identify, track, and destroy targets without human intervention. Cyber weapons could attack critical infrastructure or produce propaganda to influence opinion. Partially automated human guided drones have already been used by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Elon Musk, a pessimist about the future of AI, predicts that the race for AI supremacy will be the most likely cause of World War 3.

This raises ethical questions and some advocacy groups like the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and prominent AI researchers like Stuart Russell have been advocating for an international ban on autonomous weapons for years. Historically, the use of automated weapons such as Anti-Personnel mines has been restricted.

Will the advances in AI research lead to a new arms struggle between major powers such as the US and China? Would such weapons make MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) more or less likely? Would countries be more willing to fight wars if their troops are not directly in the firing lines? How would this impact civilians and the balance of power in diplomacy? Come and join us the discussion.


Subramanian Ramamoorthy is a Reader (Associate Professor) in the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, where he has been on the faculty since 2007. He is an Executive Committee Member for the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. He received his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007. He is a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute and has been an elected Member of the Young Academy of Scotland at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Visiting Professor at Stanford University and the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. He also serves as Vice President - Prediction and Planning at FiveAI, a UK-based startup company focussed on developing a technology stack for autonomous vehicles. His research focus is on robot learning and decision-making under uncertainty, with particular emphasis on achieving safe and robust autonomy in human-centered environments.

Nehal Bhuta, Nehal Bhuta, Chair of Public International Law at the University of Edinburgh, works on human rights, the laws of war, the history of international law, as well as social and political theory. Furthermore Nehal Bhuta is Co-Director of the Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law. He previously held the Chair of Public International Law at the European University Institute in Florence, in addition to being Co-Director of the Institute's Academy of European Law. He is a member of the editorial boards of the European Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Criminal Justice, Constellations and a founding editor of the interdisciplinary journal Humanity. He is also a editor of the Oxford University Press (OUP) series in The History and Theory of International Law. Prior to the EUI he was on the faculty at the New School for Social Research, and at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Before entering academia, he worked with Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice. Nehal’s two most recent edited volumes are Freedom of Religion, Secularism and Human Rights (OUP) and Autonomous Weapons Systems - Law, Ethics, Policy (Cambridge University Press with Beck, Geiss, Liu and Kress). Nehal works on a wide range of doctrinal, historical and theoretical issues in international law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law and human rights law.

Maya Brehm is a researcher with expertise in international humanitarian and human rights law, disarmament, and weapons law. She is also co-founder of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Switzerland. ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 for its role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Her areas of focus are autonomous weapon systems, explosive weapons, a humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament, the weaponization of science & technology. She has experience in humanitarian fieldwork, teaching, legal and policy research, project management and administration.



NB: This event might be streamed live, recorded and/or photographed.


Registration is required for this event (please see the link to Eventbrite page).

Apr 29 2019 -

#3 'Autonomous weapons'

Third in a series of public discussions, the event will cover the ethics of using AI advances in modern warfare.

Informatics Forum, room G.07
10 Crichton Street