Two leading human rights NGOs, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, released separate reports on U.S. drone warfare this week. They were focused on different places geographically—Amnesty’s report, “Will I be next? U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan,” focuses on Waziristan and the tribal regions of Pakistan that border Afghanistan, while Human Rights Watch’s offering, “Between a Drone and Al Qaeda: The Civilian Cost of U.S.
What if armed drones were not just piloted remotely by humans in far-away bunkers, but they were programmed under certain circumstances to select and fire at some targets entirely on their own? This may sound like science fiction, and deployment of such systems is, indeed, far off. But research programs, policy decisions, and legal debates are taking place now that could radically affect the future development and use of autonomous weapon systems.