The Algorithmic Turn in Security and Warfare

6 – 7 January 2022

Online Conference
Hosted by the ERC-funded AutoNorms project and the Centre for War Studies (CWS)
University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Odense

Functional applications of artificial intelligence (AI) based upon machine learning algorithms are in the process of shaping a diverse spectrum of social, business, legal, and political fields. These developments can be succinctly captured via the notion of an “algorithmic turn”. “The Algorithmic Turn in Security and Warfare” conference brings together participants to discuss this framing in the context of diverse settings, including borders, surveillance, predictive policing, weaponised artificial intelligence, and military applications of AI (e.g., image recognition, computer vision). 

The “Algorithmic Turn” conference will be hosted by the European Research Council funded project “AutoNorms: Weaponised Artificial Intelligence, Norms, and Order”. Launched in August 2020, AutoNorms is a 5-year project that brings together a research team under Dr Ingvild Bode’s leadership. It features research exploring how the development and application of autonomous weapon systems transform use-of-force norms. The AutoNorms project is in turn hosted by the Centre for War Studies (CWS) at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), an interdisciplinary centre for the major debates on the past, present, and future of war, and its impact on societies.

The Hacker Way: Moral Decision Logics with Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

Keynote Lecture by Dr Elke Schwarz

6 January 2022
16:30 – 17:30 CET

‘The Algorithmic Turn in Security and Warfare’ – the integration of AI into military systems – has amplified an already heated debate in which proponents and opponents of lethal autonomous weapons clash over the legal, ethical, and practical upshots of this new technology. As ever with new technological developments, debates still lag behind accelerated efforts to replace human decision making with AI wherever possible in military operations. In my keynote address I argue, drawing on Norbert Wiener’s work, that such developments in military AI reflect a prioritisation of ‘know-how’ over ‘know-what’, which in turn jeopardises not only global security, but also the very integrity of human ethical reasoning. In particular, the address tracks present-day forays into full lethal autonomy in weapons systems, noting their deleterious impact on the ability of military personnel to take responsibility for acts of technologically mediated violence, whether intended or accidental. I will close by noting important linkages between the ‘know-how’ perspective and the private sector, arguing that the growing prevalence of such a perspective is likely to lessen the restraint on harm in warfare going forward, in particular by normalising ‘accidents’ as a necessary side-effect.

Dr Elke Schwarz is Associate Professor in Political Theory at Queen Mary University London. Her research focuses on the intersection of ethics of war and technology with an emphasis on unmanned and autonomous / intelligent military technologies and their impact on the politics of contemporary warfare. Over the last decade, she has been involved in a number of policy initiatives on drones, autonomous weapons systems and military Artificial Intelligence. She is the author of ‘Death Machines: The Ethics of Violent Technologies’, member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) and 2022/23 CAPAS Fellow at the University of Heidelberg.

Upcoming events

Online Conference

12 February 2022

Anna Nadibaidze will present at the British Pugwash Technology & Peace Conference, which will take place on Zoom. Her presentation will touch upon the global debate on lethal autonomous weapons systems at the UN. Find the programme and registration information here.


28 March – 2 April 2022

Guangyu Qiao-Franco will present her analysis of norm building activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the field of international information security at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention 2022.  Her research builds on ‘communities of practice’ theories, analysing the strategies of SCO member states, such as China and Russia, in expanding the information security community through narrowing the conception of ‘others’.

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Past events

Competition Result

8 December 2021

Anna Nadibaidze was announced as one of the winners of the 2021 OSCE- IFSH Essay Competition on Conventional Arms Control and Confidence- and Security- Building Measures in Europe. She presented her essay, which touched upon weaponised artificial intelligence, at a meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation. Read more about the competition results here.


25 November 2021

Ingvild Bode participated in an online panel discussion on the technical, ethical and political challenges posed by drone warfare and lethal autonomous weapon systems. The webinar was organised by British Pugwash and Student/Young Pugwash (SYP) UK’s Project on Ethical Science. Watch the recording here.


10 November 2021

Ingvild Bode was interviewed by Paola Gaeta and Marta Bo from the LAWS & War Crimes Project in episode 8 of the project’s podcast. The episode is entitled “Can humans exercise meaningful control over lethal autonomous weapons?” and is available here.

Online Lecture

8 November 2021

Ingvild Bode delivered a DILEMA lecture on the topic of “Which Practices Shape Norms? Retaining Human Control over the Use of Force”. The discussion was moderated by Klaudia Klonowska, PhD researcher at DILEMA. To watch a recording of the lecture, see the Asser Institute YouTube channel.


28-29 October 2021

Ingvild Bode and Anna Nadibaidze participated at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Danish Political Science Association (DPSA). Ingvild Bode presented her paper “Silently Negotiating Normativity: Community of Practice, Technology, and Loitering Munitions” and chaired the panel on “New Research in International Relations”. Anna Nadibaidze presented her draft article “Mapping the Russian Position in the Global Debate about Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems”.


19 October 2021

Ingvild Bode presented her research at the “Critical Borders: Radical (Re)visions of AI” conference, jointly organised by the Centre for Gender Studies and the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. Her paper entitled “Beyond the Terminator: How imaginaries draw boundaries in the debate about weaponised Artificial Intelligence” was part of the” AI Fact and Fiction” panel on 19 October 2021. Watch the recording here (starting at 4:39:55).


13 October 2021

Ingvild Bode participated in a webinar organised by the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) as part of their Deterrence and Emerging Technologies (DET) webinar series. The panel covered the theme “Situational Awareness, Command, and Control: The Impact of AI”. Find the recording here.


13-17 September 2021

Guangyu Qiao-Franco presented her research on cross-level analysis in practice theories at the 2021 Conference of the European International Studies Association (EISA). Her research builds on an empirical study on China’s domestic and foreign policies on autonomous weapons, which is intended to complement international practice theory by providing an informative approach for conceptualising cases featuring divides between domestic and international practices.


13-17 September 2021

Hendrik Huelss presented two conference papers on the evolution of computer vision and implications for warfare as well as on the problem of meaningful human control at the 14th Pan-European Conference of the European International Studies Association (EISA).


8-10 September 2021

Ingvild Bode, Anna Nadibaidze, and Guangyu Qiao-Franco presented their research at the interdisciplinary Science Peace Security 21 conference.

Guangyu Qiao-Franco presented a two-level analysis (international and domestic levels) of China’s positions on autonomous weapons systems.

Anna Nadibaidze looked into the role of great power identity in Russia’s discourse on LAWS.

Ingvild Bode examined how existing weapons systems with autonomous features shape what counts as meaningful human control. 


9-13 August 2021

Anna Nadibaidze represented AutoNorms at the first session of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on emerging technologies in the area of the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), which took place in Geneva. During the informal part of the session, Anna presented AutoNorms’ research,  with an emphasis on the importance of examining existing weapons with autonomous and automated features for determining the elements of meaningful human control.


21-23 June 2021

Ingvild Bode presented two conference papers on non-verbal practices and norms as well as on visual analysis at the British International Studies Association (BISA) Conference

Hendrik Huelss also presented a paper on changing visual regimes and warfare.


25 June 2021 

Guangyu Qiao-Franco presented the research she conducted in cooperation with Ingvild Bode on China’s emerging understanding of what constitutes appropriate human control over the use of force at the 2021 annual meeting of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS).  It contains a detailed analysis of China’s international statements at various UN forms and a stocktaking of relevant practices within which opposing notions of permissible scope of human control/machine autonomy were internalised by the Chinese leadership.

Invited Presentation

2 June 2021 

Ingvild Bode presented her research on how non-verbal practices shape norms in the context of weapons systems with automated and autonomous features as part of the research seminar organised by the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg. 


8 April 2021

Ingvild Bode delivered a talk on “Non-verbal practices and the making of norms” at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA).

Invited Presentation

4 May 2021 

Ingvild Bode presented her research on how non-verbal practices shape norms in the context of weapons systems with automated and autonomous features as part of the Sandhurst Defence Forum at the Royal Military Academic Sandhurst.  

Participation in a Webinar

25 March 2021

Ingvild Bode participated in a webinar to launch the new report “Meaning-less Human Control” written by Ingvild Bode and Tom Watts. The event featured a presentation of the report’s main findings, as well as comments by two experts – Maaike Verbruggen (Institute of European Studies, VUB) and Richard Moyes (Article 36) – followed by Q&A. Peter Burt (Drone Wars UK) moderated the event. 

Watch a recording of the event here.