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Lethal Autonomous Weapons:

Designing War Machines with Values


Steven Umbrello


Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs) have becomes the subject of continuous debate both at national and international levels. Arguments have been proposed both for the development and use of LAWs as well as their prohibition from combat landscapes. Regardless, the development of LAWs continues in numerous nation-states. This paper builds upon previous philosophical arguments for the development and use of LAWs and proposes a design framework that can be used to ethically direct their development. The conclusion is that the philosophical arguments that underpin the adoption of LAWs, although prima facie insufficient, can be actualised through the proposed Value Sensitive Design (VSD) approach. Hence, what is proposed is a principled design approach that can be used to embed stakeholder values into a design, encourage stakeholder cooperation and coordination and as a result promote social acceptance of LAWs as a preferable future fact of war.

Steven Umbrello, Managing Director at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and graduate student at the University of Turin, Italy. For correspondence: <>. The author builds on his own work (fn 3).


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