The world is constantly evolving and technological developments, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), have become increasingly common. Autonomous weapons are one of the most revolutionary advancements in technology, as they are capable of making life-and-death decisions independently, raising ethical and moral questions. From a distance, autonomous weapons seem advanced, but their ethical implications are still a worrying factor. This article is a comprehensive guide to the ethical implications of autonomous weapons, and how they may shape the future of warfare.

What are Autonomous Weapons? 

Autonomous weapons, also known as “lethal autonomous weapons systems”, are technological systems developed with the purpose of finding, engaging and even killing targets without any human input. They use AI algorithms such as machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing to identify and assess threats, and decide whether to engage them or not.

Ethical Concerns 

The ethical concerns associated with autonomous weapons are quite distinct from those associated with other weapons systems because of their lack of human control. Autonomous weapons raise a fundamental question concerning moral responsibility: who is responsible for the harm caused by an autonomous weapon? Is it the designer of the system, the commander who orders it to fire, or the system itself?


This is a difficult question to answer, as it is unclear how much of a role human input plays in the decisions made by autonomous weapons. Conventionally, when humans decide to launch a weapon, they are held morally and legally accountable. However, this equation changes with autonomous weapons, as the technology is designed to make decisions independently of human agency.

The primary ethical concern with autonomous weapons is the potential lack of accountability. Autonomous weapons may make decisions without any human intervention, which means that no one is directly responsible for the actions of the weapon. This could result in legal confusion, as traditional laws of war assume that there is an individual responsible for the decisions made by a weapon.

No Human Intervention 

Another reason for ethical concern when it comes to autonomous weapons is the lack of human input. Autonomous weapons are programmed to make decisions without any human involvement, meaning that there is nobody to step in and make sure that the weapon is making ethical decisions. This could lead to large-scale destruction and human suffering, as there is no human contact to assess the situation and make sure that the weapon is meeting appropriate ethical standards.

Risk of Misinterpretation 

Autonomous weapons also raise the risk of misinterpretation. AI algorithms can only interpret data that is available to them, meaning that they may make mistakes when determining whether a target poses a threat or not. This presents an ethical concern that could cause unnecessary destruction and could hinder the ethical standards of warfare.

No Rules of Engagement 

Autonomous weapons systems may also lack human empathy, meaning that there would be no way to assess the situation and determine the most ethical way to confront an enemy. This poses a unique ethical concern, as traditionally, human commanders set the “rules of engagement” to ensure that their troops are engaging in warfare in an ethical manner. Without such rules for autonomous weapons, there is a high risk that they may lack the moral guidance necessary to make correct decisions.

Weapons Proliferation 

In addition to the ethical implications discussed above, autonomous weapons also raise the potential of a weapons proliferation. As autonomous weapons become increasingly advanced and widely available, they are likely to fall into the hands of nations, groups and individuals that may not have any ethical standards or oversight when it comes to their use. This poses a huge ethical concern, as it increases the risk of human suffering and destruction, with little to no accountability or oversight.

Autonomous weapons are a revolutionary advancement in technology, but they also come with a variety of ethical concerns. There is a risk of lack of accountability and responsibility, lack of human input and decision-making, misinterpretation, and increased risk of weapons proliferation. These ethical issues should be considered when developing and deploying autonomous weapons systems, in order to ensure that their use is ethical and beneficial, rather than detrimental and destructive.