Armed Conflict Cybersecurity & Tech

The Lawfare Podcast: Governing the Use of Autonomous Weapons and AI in Warfare with Lauren Kahn

Tyler McBrien, Lauren Kahn, Jen Patja
Friday, March 1, 2024, 9:00 AM
Can there be ethical uses of autonomous weapons?

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Following Hamas’s attacks on Oct. 7, the Israeli military retaliated with a relentless and devastating air war. By mid-December, Israeli forces had struck more than 22,000 targets in Gaza, and the Israeli military said it had used artificial intelligence to select many of them. The targeting system, called “The Gospel” by the IDF, was not the first time a military used AI on the battlefield, but the high number of civilian casualties raised red flags for many.

Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien sat down with Lauren Kahn, a Senior Research Analyst at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) who focuses on the national security applications of artificial intelligence. They discussed how autonomous and AI-enabled weapons are being used and will be used in war, “the current ground rules for the age of AI in warfare,” and why Lauren favors confidence-building measures and other incremental steps, rather than an all-out ban. And despite running through a few nightmare scenarios, we learned why Lauren remains hopeful for the responsible and ethical use of AI for defense.  

Tyler McBrien is the managing editor of Lawfare. He previously worked as an editor with the Council on Foreign Relations and a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa, and holds an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.
Lauren Kahn is a senior research analyst at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) focused on national security applications of artificial intelligence. Prior to CSET, she was a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she worked on defense innovation and the impact of emerging technologies on international security, with a particular emphasis on AI.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of the Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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