Conference: Imaginations of Autonomy – On Humans, AI-Based Weapon Systems and Responsibility at Machine Speed; Paderborn University, 22-24 May 2024

We are delighted to announce that the conference “Imaginations of Autonomy – On Humans, AI-Based Weapon Systems and Responsibility at Machine Speed” will take place from Wednesday 22nd to Friday 24th May 2024 at Paderborn University, Germany.

A brief description of the conference follows below. 

Autonomous Weapon Systems (AWS) exhibit a high degree of automation. The movement of vehicles and the identification, selection and killing of targets are claimed as processes that machines can perform ‘autonomously’ or even ‘responsibly’ without human intervention. However, AWS depend on (human-made) material, technical and organizational infrastructures including big data and ‘self-learning’, opaque machine learning algorithms. As complex human/machine configurations, AWS exhibit agency beyond the clear-cut realms of machines and humans – though responsibility can only stay with humans.                                                                                                                                                            

From this perspective, the claim of responsible AI as well as the autonomy of weapon systems can be seen as an epistemo-technoscientific as well as politically-driven imagination. However, this imagined autonomy has very real effects. It renews and strengthens promises of ‘fighting at machine speed’, and performing ‘precision strikes’. These technoscientific promises are articulated by politicians and the military; they drive hegemonic global politics and devalue discourses of and investments in diplomacy, conflict management and peace research. They legitimize arms contracts and trade as well as military research and development. Problematic effects of high automation such as automation bias, opaqueness of the systems and susceptibility to error are often overseen, underestimated or even made invisible.                                                                                                             

Against this background, the first conference of the competence network Meaningful Human Control – Autonomous Weapon System between Regulation and Reflexion, led by Paderborn University and situated at five universities, aims to develop new approaches to understanding military human/machine configurations and their distributed, situational agency. Thereby, we aim to foster interdisciplinary dialogue, include non-Western positions more strongly in the debate and expand the scope with artistic perspectives and a robotic performance.

Thw programme can be found here.

Participation in the conference is free of charge. However, we ask for a registration. Please register here.

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