Countries are now building autonomous killer robots.  Learn more about p(doom)


2024 Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapons Systems. 29-30 APRIL.

The Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs is pleased to host the international conference “Humanity at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation” on 29-30 April 2024 in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.

The increased autonomy of weapons through the introduction of artificial intelligence will fundamentally transform armed conflicts. Autonomous weapons systems (AWS) raise profound questions from a legal, ethical, humanitarian and security perspective. Humanity is at a crossroads and must come together to address the fundamental challenge of regulating these weapons.

In the first-ever UN General Assembly resolution on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2023, an overwhelming majority of States underlined the urgent need for the international community to address the challenges and concerns raised by autonomous weapons systems. Austria therefore organises this conference in the hope of further advancing the debate on an international regulation of AWS.

All States, the United Nations, the ICRC, international and regional organisations representatives of academia, think tanks, industry and civil society are invited to participate and to discuss the fundamental issues and various challenges related to AWS and their international regulation.

Conference Outline:

The Conference will open on 29 April 2024 at 10:00 with a high-level segment including statements from the host country and other invited high-level guests as well as two moderated high-level panels. They will be followed by four multidisciplinary expert panels to examine AWS and address the challenges for their regulation from several angles.

Participating states and other stakeholders will be able to engage with the panellists in Q&A sessions following the expert panel presentations. In addition, there will be an opportunity for brief general statements following Panel Four on the second day of the Conference and to upload statements on the publicly available conference website. Limited capacity for side events during the lunchbreak on both days as well as exhibitions space will be available. The Conference is expected to conclude at 17:15 on 30 April 2024.

High-level Panels – “The need for regulation – action – partnerships”

Two high-level panels of invited guests will discuss in a moderated discussion the need for regulation of AWS and of partnerships to move this objective forward.

Panel One – Emerging technologies, AWS and the (future) shape of conflict

The panel will set the Conference’s scene, discussing where technological development in the field of AWS is going and how the issue of AWS relates to wider questions around artificial intelligence (AI) in the military domain and large-scale data processing. It will address implications of ‘autonomy’ on international security and society in general and introduce the specific humanitarian, legal, ethical, security and technological challenges of AWS.

Panel Two  Human control and accountability under the law

The panel will consider the role of humans in the use of force regarding AWS and provide the basis to discuss the necessary positive obligations that would allow for adequate human judgement and control. It will assess to what extent human decision-making is indispensable to make moral and legal judgements ahead of the use of force and to hold people accountable as required by international law. The panel will also address design, development and training aspects related to AWS.

Panel Three – Human dignity and the ethics of algorithms

The panel will consider the range of ethical and human rights aspects that are of key relevance in relation to AWS and their regulation. This includes the question of processing people as data through sensors and algorithms to make decisions about subjecting them to physical force, the targeting of human beings and the wider risks including the role of bias in data sets and algorithms.

Panel Four – How dealing with AWS will shape future human-technology relations

This panel will focus on the wider questions of why action is necessary for society as a whole and the future of armed conflict. Lessons learnt from autonomy and AI in in civil applications will be considered. The risk of an ‘autonomy’ arms race, lowering the threshold for military confrontation and proliferation to non-state armed groups and terrorists demonstrate the urgency to take action.

On 28 April 2024, the International Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is organising the civil society forum “Action at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation” at Palais Wertheim, to which the general public is invited. The forum is independent of the conference of the Austrian MFA. Separate registration is required.

The conference’s livestream will be accessible on this website.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg welcomes participants to the international “Humanity at the Crossroads” conference on autonomous weapons systems, in Vienna on April 29-30, 2024 © 2024 Michael Gruber/ BMEIA