Innovation-Proof Global Governance for Military Artificial Intelligence?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Bot

In: Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
Matthijs M Maas PhD Fellow, Centre for International Law, Conflict and Crisis, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Research Associate, Center for the Governance of AI, Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford, UK,

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Amidst fears over artificial intelligence ‘arms races’, much of the international debate on governing military uses of AI is still focused on preventing the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems (laws). Yet ‘killer robots’ hardly exhaust the potentially problematic capabilities that innovation in military AI (mai) is set to unlock. Governance initiatives narrowly focused on preserving ‘meaningful human control’ over laws therefore risk being bypassed by the technological state-of-the-art. This paper departs from the question: how can we formulate ‘innovation-proof governance’ approaches that are resilient or adaptive to future developments in military AI? I develop a typology for the ways in which mai innovation can disrupt existing international legal frameworks. This includes ‘direct’ disruption – as new types of mai capabilities elude categorization under existing regimes – as well as ‘indirect’ disruption, where new capabilities shift the risk landscape of military AI, or change the incentives or values of the states developing them. After discussing two potential objections to ‘innovation-proof governance’, I explore the advantages and shortcomings of three possible approaches to innovation-proof governance for military AI. While no definitive blueprint is offered, I suggest key considerations for governance strategies that seek to ensure that military AI remains lawful, ethical, stabilizing, and safe.

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