Call for Evidence
Aim of the inquiry
The Artificial Intelligence in Weapon Systems Committee was appointed on 31 January 2023 “to consider the use of artificial intelligence in weapon systems”.
Autonomy is a characteristic of a system using artificial intelligence to determine its own course of action by making its own decisions. Automation refers to the use of systems to perform tasks that would ordinarily involve human input. Automation and autonomy can be viewed as existing on a spectrum relating to the level of human supervision over a system. This can range from manually controlled systems to those that independently make decisions about how to achieve certain human-set goals without further human intervention.
Autonomous weapons systems (AWS), also known as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), are weapons systems which can select, detect and engage targets with little to no human intervention. The scope of these systems can vary significantly, from fully autonomous weapons that can operate without any human involvement, to semi-autonomous weapons that require human action to launch an attack. The UK does not currently have an operative definition of AWS. Generally, war is governed by procedures, rules and regulations, and the use of AWS is no exception. Our Committee is investigating how AWS should be developed and utilised, both now and in the future.
The House has asked the Committee to conclude its inquiry by the end of November 2023. The Government has undertaken to respond in writing to select committee reports, usually within two months of publication.
The Committee expects to hear from invited contributors in public sessions from March to July 2023 inclusive.
This is a public call for written evidence to be submitted to the Committee. The deadline is 4pm on Monday 8 May 2023.
The Committee is happy to receive submissions on any issues related to artificial intelligence in weapons systems but would particularly welcome submissions on the questions listed below.
Contributors need not address every question and experts are encouraged to focus on their specialism. Other issues may be discussed provided that their relevance is explained. Submissions which have been previously published will not be accepted as evidence. However, published material may be referenced where relevant.
In addition, the Committee encourages people from all backgrounds to contribute and believes that it is particularly important to hear from groups which are often under-represented. The Committee’s work is most effective when it is informed by as diverse a range of perspectives and experiences as possible. Please pass this on to others who may be interested in contributing.
Instructions on how to submit evidence are set out at the end of this document. If you have any queries please email the staff of the Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. When preparing your response, please bear in mind that short, concise submissions are preferred. Please explain any acronyms or technical terms, and ensure your submission is understandable by a lay audience.
- What do you understand by the term autonomous weapons system (AWS)? Should the UK adopt an operative definition of AWS?
- What are the possible challenges, risks, benefits and ethical concerns of AWS? How would AWS change the makeup of defence forces and the nature of combat?
- What safeguards (technological, legal, procedural or otherwise) would be needed to ensure safe, reliable and accountable AWS?
- Is existing International Humanitarian Law (IHL) sufficient to ensure any AWS act safely and appropriately? What oversight or accountability measures are necessary to ensure compliance with IHL? If IHL is insufficient, what other mechanisms should be introduced to regulate AWS?
- What are your views on the Government's AI Defence Strategy and the policy statement ‘Ambitious, safe, responsible: our approach to the delivery of AI-enabled capability in Defence’? Are these sufficient in guiding the development and application of AWS? How does UK policy compare to that of other countries?
- Are existing legal provisions and regulations which seek to regulate AI and weapons systems sufficient to govern the use of AWS? If not, what reforms are needed nationally and internationally; and what are the barriers to making those reforms?
 Ministry of Defence, ‘Defence Artificial Intelligence Strategy’ (15 June 2022): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/defence-artificial-intelligence-strategy/defence-artificial-intelligence-strategy [accessed 17 February 2023]
 Ministry of Defence, ‘Ambitious, safe, responsible: our approach to the delivery of AI-enabled capability in Defence’ (15 June 2022): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ambitious-safe-responsible-our-approach-to-the-delivery-of-ai-enabled-capability-in-defence/ambitious-safe-responsible-our-approach-to-the-delivery-of-ai-enabled-capability-in-defence [accessed on 17 February 2023]
This call for written evidence has now closed.Go back to AI in weapon systems Inquiry