New Zealand Law Society - Marsden Fund supports study into ‘killer robots’

Marsden Fund supports study into ‘killer robots’

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The Marsden Fund has granted $842,000 to a three-year research project into the use of lethal autonomous weapons (LAWS). The use of these so-called “killer robots” is being debated internationally and 12 countries are known to be developing LAWS, including China, Russia and Israel.

Dr Jeremy Moses and Associate Professor Amy Fletcher, from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Canterbury (UC), and Dr Geoff Ford, a political scientist at the UC Arts Digital Lab are conducting the study.

Proponents of LAWS argue that they are needed to maintain geopolitical balance, while other groups such as the Campaign to Ban Killer Robots are seeking a global ban on them.

"Opponents fear a world of ‘algorithmic warfare’ in which robots can make decisions to kill in the absence of human oversight and in which the speed and complexity of war accelerates to the point that international rules of conduct are rendered irrelevant," says Associate Professor Fletcher.

The project, which will begin this year, will apply innovative text-mining tools to analyse the debate in order to produce data to better inform regulators and decision-makers.

The Marsden Fund supports excellence in science, engineering, mathematics, social sciences and the humanities in New Zealand by providing grants for investigator-initiated research.