Study #1

The security-policy effects of digitisation: Future forms of conflict and conflict management

The autonomy of machines is the most important future trend in the digital age. With regard to weapon systems, autonomy promises to act as a force multiplier and to permit higher operational speeds and more precise effects. However, in matters of conflict management, the elimination of human control carries operational risks of a legal and ethical nature as well as strategic risks due to new, escalation-prone forms of conflict. As regards a Bundeswehr use of autonomous weapon systems, this report thus recommends a nuanced approach that helps the Bundeswehr exploit potential advantages while minimising the risks. On a national level, this approach includes preparing a policy document to make sure that the selection and engagement of targets always remains under meaningful human control except for defensive systems. On an international level, it encompasses efforts toward an international, verifiable set of regulations on autonomy in weapon systems that are legally binding under international law.