Militaries around the world are developing, integrating and using robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) in line with the evolution of warfare. Further thinking needs to be done regarding the conditions under which this process takes place within the Netherlands and what challenges and implications are likely to arise as a consequence. The HCSS project ‘RAS in a Military Context’ sought to contribute to this discussion.
Over a two year period, the project yielded five public research papers covering a range of topics relevant to the implementation of RAS in a military context. These research papers cover military applicability, ethical considerations, legal discourse, requirements for cooperation and the implementation of RAS in a military context. All papers are combined in this Capstone document, including a Synthesis, which briefly summarizes the analyses, and a series of six factsheets.
Our approach was focused on acquiring the expertise of practitioners, researchers, ethicists, legal specialists, industry professionals, technicians, civil society organizations, military personnel and other members of the defense community. Doing so enabled us, not only to gather a multi-faceted understanding of the subject matter, but also to uniquely connect these stakeholders together and foster challenging discussions between them. Over the course of the project we held five meetings with a diverse group of Sounding Board members who steered our research trajectory and provided valuable input into our position papers and draft research papers. We also gathered expertise from over 200 stakeholders who joined our six expert sessions, which involved various methodologies including scenario based discussions, design sessions, serious gaming exercises and interviews.
Our secondary objective was to inform public debate and create a more nuanced conversation about RAS in a military context that resisted prevailing ideas of ‘killer robots’. To this end, we held public symposiums on the ethical dilemmas RAS pose, released five De Strateeg podcasts in cooperation with BNR Nieuwsradio, organized conferences and roundtables and in February 2021, we released an 18-minute documentary, available on YouTube.
The RAS Project Team would like to thank all who have been involved in this project for generously offering their time and expertise, particularly our Sounding Board members. Our hope is that readers find our research and practical recommendations helpful in structuring their thinking and that the discussion on this important topic will continue to develop and thrive.
Michel Rademaker, Project Leader