[New research papers] Artificial intelligence and warfare

Published 18 May 2022


As part of the Asser Institute research paper series, Asser researchers Berenice Boutin, Taylor Woodcock and Tomasz Zurek from the research strand ‘Regulation in the public interest: Disruptive technologies in peace and security’ and part of the Designing International Law and Ethics into Military Artificial Intelligence (DILEMA) project recently published two brand new research papers on artificial intelligence and warfare.

Aspects of realizing (meaningful) human control: A legal perspective

In this paper, Asser researchers Berenice Boutin and Taylor Woodcock explain and problematise reliance on the concept of meaningful human control (MHC) in debates on autonomous weapon systems and military AI more broadly. The authors propose a legal compliance-by-design approach to refine and operationalise the concept of MHC so that it may support the international legal framework in addressing the complex realities of technologically-mediated warfare.  

The concept of ‘meaningful human control’ (MHC) has progressively emerged as a key frame of reference to conceptualise the difficulties posed by military applications of artificial intelligence (AI), and to identify solutions to mitigate these challenges. At the same time, this notion remains relatively indeterminate and difficult to operationalise. If MHC is to support the existing framework of international law applicable to military AI, it needs to be clarified in order to deal with the challenges of AI broadly construed, not limited to ‘autonomous weapons systems’ (AWS). This chapter seeks to refine the notion of MHC by exploring its nature and purpose, and reflecting on how MHC relates to core concepts of human agency and responsibility. Building on this analysis, we propose ways to operationalie MHC, in particular by putting greater emphasis on pre-deployment stages. A legal ‘compliance by design’ approach is advanced by the authors as a means to address the complex realities when military decision-making processes are mediated by AI-enabled technologies.

Read the full paper.

Boutin, Berenice and Woodcock, Taylor, Aspects of Realizing (Meaningful) Human Control: A Legal Perspective (May 11, 2022). T.M.C. Asser Institute for International & European Law, Asser Research Paper 2022-07, forthcoming in: Geiß, R. and Lahmann, H. (eds.), Research Handbook on Warfare and Artificial Intelligence, Edward Elgar Publishing.

About Berenice Boutin

Dr Berenice Boutin is a senior researcher in international law at the Asser Institute, coordinator of the research strand on Disruptive technologies in peace and security, and project leader of the NWO-funded  project Designing International Law and Ethics into Military Artificial Intelligence (DILEMA).

About Taylor Woodcock
Taylor is a  PhD researcher in public international law at the Asser Institute. Taylor's research examines the implications of the development and use of military applications of artificial intelligence (AI) for the international legal obligations applicable in armed conflict under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Designing international humanitarian law into military autonomous devices

In the paper ‘Designing International Humanitarian Law into Military Autonomous Devices’ Tomasz Zurek, Jonathan Kwik and Tom van Engers propose a hypothetical system for implementing the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that is constructed from the ground up with international humanitarian law rules in mind.

This position paper presents a discussion on the problem of implementing the rules of International Humanitarian Law in AI-driven military autonomous devices. We introduce a structure of a hybrid data- and knowledge-driven computational framework of a hypothetical targeting system built from the ground up with IHL compliance in mind. We provide a model and a discussion of necessary legal tests and variables.

Read the full paper.

Kwik, Jonathan and Zurek, Tomasz and van Engers, Tom, Designing International Humanitarian Law into Military Autonomous Devices (May 3, 2022). T.M.C. Asser Institute for International & European Law, Asser Research Paper 2022-06, forthcoming in: Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence series, Springer Verlag.

About Tomasz Zurek
Dr Tomasz Zurek is a post-doc researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. His scientific interests focus on representation of legal knowledge and modelling of legal reasoning and argumentation, especially the modelling of informal ways of reasoning.

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Regulation in the public interest: Disruptive technologies in peace and security
This research strand addresses regulation to safeguard and promote public interests. It focuses, in particular, on the development of the international regulatory framework for the military applications of disruptive technologies and the arms race in conventional and non-conventional weapons. The public interest of peace and security serves as the prime conceptual framework in this strand.

[Book launch] ‘Problem-Solving Technologies: A User-Friendly Philosophy by Sadjad Soltanzadeh
On Wednesday 8 June 2022, the Asser Institute and the DILEMA project will host a book launch and symposium for the recently-published book of Asser researcher Sadjad Soltanzadeh, entitled ‘Problem-Solving Technologies: A User-Friendly Philosophy (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2022). 

As technologies become ubiquitous in our everyday personal and social life, it is essential to understand the role and impact of technologies on human activities. Against the background of discussions on approaches to ethics and philosophy of technologies, the symposium will explore the complex interrelationships between technologies and humans, and invite us to re-examine our societal and governance structures. Read more & register.