Call: Special issue of Ethics and Information Technology on “Armed Military Robots”

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of Ethics and Information Technology on “Armed Military Robots”

Ethics and Information Technology is calling for papers to be considered for inclusion in a Special Issue on the ethics of armed military robots, to be edited by Noel Sharkey, Juergen Altmann, Peter Asaro and Robert Sparrow. The need for this Special Issue became apparent at the Berlin meeting of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control in September, 2010. This meeting expressed deep concerns about the proliferation and development of armed military robots and identified a pressing need for more international discussion of the ethics of these systems:

Recent armed conflicts have seen robots playing a number of important military roles, yet informed ethical discussion has, for the most part, lagged well behind. We therefore invite contributors from a wide range of disciplines including philosophy, law, engineering, robotics, computer science, artificial intelligence, peace studies, and policy studies, to consider the ethical issues raised by the development and deployment of remote piloted, semi-autonomous, and autonomous robots (UXVs) for military roles.

Will the development of sophisticated military robots make wars more likely? If so, can the proliferation and use of war robots be controlled? How might robots change the nature of modern warfare? And how should Just War Theory and International Law be applied to wars fought by robots and/or to the operations of robots in contemporary conflicts? We welcome submissions that discuss or attempt to answer these – or related – questions. Given the contemporary political and military enthusiasm for remotely operated and semi-autonomous weapons, we are especially interested to receive submissions that offer a critical perspective.

Other suitable topics for papers for this special issue include (but are not limited to):

  • Is it morally permissible to grant autonomous systems authority for the use, or targeting, of lethal force?
  • What are the implications of the just war doctrine of jus in bello for the operations of military robots and vice versa?
  • What are the implications of military robots for jus ad bellum. Will they lower the threshold for starting wars?
  • What should an arms control regime governing robots seek to regulate?
  • What factors are at work in decisions by states to work for or against such arms control, what are commonalities with and differences from efforts and campaigns to ban other weapons?
  • Who should be held ethically and/or legally responsible for the operations of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons? How should we understand agency and responsibility in complex (or joint-cognitive or human-machine) systems controlling lethal force?
  • How should the idea of military valor be understood in an age when war-fighters may be thousands of kilometers away from the wars that are fighting?
  • What are the ethical and political implications of the conduct of “risk free” warfare?
  • What are the ethical and legal issues involved in the use of remote-operated drones for targeted killing?
  • How might military necessity impact on the use of armed autonomous military robots?

Submissions will be double-blind refereed for relevance to the theme as well as academic rigor and originality. High quality articles not deemed to be sufficiently relevant to the special issue may be considered for publication in a subsequent non-themed issue of Ethics and Information Technology.

Closing date for submissions: December 2, 2011

To submit your paper, please use the online submission system, to be found at

Please contact the special guest editors for more information,

Noel Sharkey,

Juergen Altmann,

Peter Asaro,

Robert Sparrow

Or the managing editor,

Noëmi Manders-Huits

Ethics and Information Technology (ETIN) is the major journal in the field of moral and political reflection on Information Technology. Its aim is to advance the dialogue between moral philosophy and the field of information technology in a broad sense, and to foster and promote reflection and analysis concerning the ethical, social and political questions associated with the adoption, use, and development of IT.


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