450 Revista del Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos Núm. 2 / 2013 In addition to the technical or military advantages that autonomous weapons systems offer, other significant advantages exist. It has thus been argued that, depending on the level of artificial intelligence that the device possesses, autonomous weapons are a third as expensive as manned vehicles and cost two-thirds as much to operate than those operated by humans8. Moreover, autonomous weapons systems, by preventing casualties on their own side and simultaneously removing war and its more dramatic consequences from the meticulous and commonly not particularly benevolent media attention it otherwise receives, clearly reduce the “political cost” of the use of force. This inspires an unsettling reflection, namely that this type of weapon may lead the general public to lose interest in warfare, thereby leaving the decisions on the use of force in the hands of politicians9 -as it is their problem- “without the constraint of their people’s response to loss of human life.”10 That is to say, sparing them the arrival ceremonies that are repeated over and over on television channels as coffins are brought back from the front. Military advantages and a lower economic and political cost explain why some countries are channelling so many resources into researching autonomous weapons. At present, more than 15 of them (such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia and China) are developing or have procured “military robotics technology”11. Without a doubt, drones and autonomous weapons have a future. Since 2009, the United States Air Force has been conducting a programme (that in principle is due to be extended until 2049) with the aim of maintaining this increased reliance on autonomous weapons, which, once programmed, are capable of achieving their objectives without any form of human intervention12. cutions, Philip Alston., A/HRC/14/24/Add.6, 28 May 2010, paragraph 79. 8 HOLMES, Stanley: “Planes that know what to bomb: smart robotic jet fighters may be delivered by 2008”, Business Week, Issue 3757, 12 November 2001, pp. 91-94 (cited by Guetlein, Michael A.: Lethal Autonomous Weapon: Ethical and Doctrinal Implications, Naval War College, Newport RI, 14 February 2005, pp. 1-31, p. 2, note 11) 9 http://www.dtic.mil/, accessed 8 September 2013). Krishnan, Armin: Killer robots: legality and ethicality of Autonomous Weapons, Ashgate, Farnham (United Kingdom) and Burlington (United States), 2009, p. 150. 10 SECRETARY-GENERAL: Role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament. Report of the Secretary-General (A/53/202), 28 July 1998, pp. 1-27, p. 18 (paragraph 98). 11 SHARKEY, Noel E.: “The evitability of autonomous robot warfare”, International Review of the Red Cross, 94 (2012), Number 886, pp. 787-799, p. 788. 12 Vid. UNITED STATES AIR FORCE: United States Air Force. Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington D.C., 18 May 2009, pp. 1-82 (www. global.security.org accessed on Sunday 8 September 2013).
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