Research Article

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The Algorithmic Turn in Security and Warfare

Alexa Steinbrück / Better Images of AI / Explainable AI / CC-BY 4.0

On 6 – 7 January 2022, the AutoNorms project and the Center for War Studies (CWS) held the virtual conference “The Algorithmic Turn in Security and Warfare”.  

Functional applications of artificial intelligence (AI) based upon machine learning algorithms are in the process of fundamentally reshaping a diverse range of social, business, legal, and political fields. The AutoNorms project hosted a conference, with funding from the Carlsberg foundation, to bring together world-leading researchers to discuss this ‘algorithmic turn’ in a variety of different security settings: surveillance, predictive policing, drones, and autonomous weapon systems (AWS), as well as policy debates surrounding these developments at the national, regional and international levels. The keynote lecture “The Hacker Way: Moral Decision Logics with Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems” was delivered by Dr. Elke Schwarz, and a mentoring session for participating PhD researchers was also provided. 

The presenters, who represented 18 different institutions from Europe and the United States, brought together a variety of perspectives such as International Relations, Science and Technology Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Security and Conflict Studies, and International Law. Find the full programme here.

Topics of discussion included the concept of human control in military applications of AI, the role of the private sector in shaping understandings of AI, cyber operations and cross-domain warfare, socio-technical imaginaries of AI and its representations in popular culture, moral challenges to algorithmic warfare, and many others. The audience consisted of scholars and practitioners from academia, think tanks, and civil society.  

The AutoNorms team thanks all the presenters and participants who joined the virtual conference and contributed to these enriching debates. We look forward to providing a forum to continue these discussions into the future and organizing the publication of a special issue on these crucially important issues. 

You can watch the keynote lecture by Dr. Elke Schwarz on the CWS YouTube channel.

Featured image credit: Alexa Steinbrück / Better Images of AI / Explainable AI / CC-BY 4.0

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