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A Moral Bind? Autonomous Weapons, Moral Responsibility, and Institutional Reality

The article discusses assigning responsibility for the actions performed by autonomous weapons systems in the context of military conflict.

Many experts argue that autonomous weapons systems, capable of unsupervised action without direct human control, are going to be used with increased frequency in future military conflict. One of the most philosophically interesting aspects of the use of such weapons is the question of assigning moral and legal responsibility for the acts performed by these machines that violate international law.

In the article, I argue that philosophers writing on this issue have paid insufficient attention to how responsibility assignments actually work in real-world militaries. When it comes to holding military personnel accountable, the incentive structures faced by military commanders all along the chain-of-command frequently undermine the feasibility of philosophical proposals for assigning responsibility for what autonomous weapons would do.