Vatican official speaks out against automated weapons

Archbishop Tomasi

No matter how sophisticated a drone is, autonomous weapons systems could never comply with international human rights law, according to a Vatican official, the Catholic News Service reports.

'Meaningful human involvement is absolutely essential in decisions affecting the life and death of human beings,' Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer to UN agencies in Geneva, told experts meeting May 13-16 to discuss lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Archbishop Tomasi said it was essential 'to recognise that autonomous weapon systems can never replace the human capacity for moral reasoning, including in the context of war.'

'The development of autonomous weapon systems will ultimately lead to widespread proliferation, and the development of complex autonomous weapon systems which remove the human actor from lethal decision-making is short-sighted and may irreversibly alter the nature of warfare in a less humane direction, leading to consequences we cannot possibly foresee, but that will in any case increase the dehumanisation of warfare.'

Archbishop Tomasi said technology obviously has many beneficial uses and even the idea of a nation keeping its soldiers out of harm's way is praiseworthy, but when nations are using or considering the use of technology to target and kill human beings, they are obliged to weigh decisions in a way only a human being can.

'Taking humans "out of the loop" presents significant ethical questions, primarily because of the absence of meaningful human involvement in lethal decision-making,' he said. 'Can machines -- well-programmed with highly sophisticated algorithms to make decisions on the battlefield in compliance with international human rights law -- truly replace humans in decisions over life and death? The answer is no.'

FULL STORY Vatican official voices opposition to automated weapons systems (CNS)

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