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The Crisis of Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Increasing Use of Human Enhancement Technologies in Conflict: A Critical Feminist Analysis — Emily Jones (Essex)

  • Melbourne Law School, Room 920 185 Pelham Street Carlton Australia (map)
Wassily Kandinsky,  Schwebende Linie  (1924).

Wassily Kandinsky, Schwebende Linie (1924).

This seminar draws on feminist posthuman theory to argue that the crisis around autonomous weapons systems (AWS) has detracted attention from the increase in human-machine life/death decision making in conflict via the use of an array of military technologies which are not defined as AWS. The promotion of AWS as inherently distinct from other technologies, however, not only poses a problem in terms of what is seen and not seen but could also potentially compromise regulation, with states being able to use definitional ambiguities to sidestep any ban while continuing to delegate decisions. The fault does not lie, however, with those calling for a ban but with the humanist underpinnings of the debate which define the machine as falsely other to the human, as well as with the limitations of the disarmament framework.

 In the meantime, while AWS have received a lot of attention and concern globally, human enhancement technologies (HETs) are being increasing used in and developed for military purposes; yet they have not received anywhere near as much focus. This is despite the fact that HETs raise a whole host of legal and ethical concerns, many of which cross-over with the concerns raised by AWS. Thus, focusing in on the use of HETs in conflict, the seminar analyses some of the concerns raised by these technologies from a critical feminist perspective. Such concerns include: legal and ethical dilemmas, including the delegation of decision-making; the potential for further biased targeting of populations; and the possible exacerbation of global inequalities between states. In addition, the seminar considers the wider social justice and discrimination concerns posed by enhancing military personnel, analysing these issues from an intersectional feminist perspective.

The seminar will conclude by searching for ways of regulating machine-human life/death decision-making which can encompass the complexities outlined earlier in the seminar.

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Dr Emily Jones is currently a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellow at the Laureate Program in International Law, Melbourne Law School. She is also a Lecturer in Law at the School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. Emily is a feminist international legal theorist working from a critical posthuman perspective. Her current work focuses on: military technologies including autonomous weapons systems and human enhancement technologies, international legal personality, feminist and queer methodologies, the granting of legal personality to the environment and the interplay between post-capitalism, work, technology and the law.