New technologies make it possible to consider circumstances in which no human beings are directly involved in combat for one or both sides in a conflict. How might this decline in human activity on the battlefield (asymmetric or symmetric) shape the role of war in the modern world? As automated systems replace people on the front lines, does this mean that conflict will become “costless” in human terms, or does the logic of war still demand human sacrifice? While considerable speculation exists about the effects of technology on war, relatively little attention has been devoted to understanding how new modes of combat intersect with established motives for using force. I explore these political dimensions of automated conflict. To the degree that substituting machines for humans in combat lowers the costs for fighting, warfare should become more frequent but also less informative. At the same time, however, use of automated combatant systems that minimize battlefield casualties will also encourage increased targeting of civilians.
About the Speaker
Erik Gartzke is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, and Professor of Government at the University of Essex. His research interests include nuclear security, the liberal peace, international institutions and the evolving nature of warfare. He has written on the effects of commerce, economic development, system structure and climate change on war. Professor Gartzke’s research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, International Organization, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Politics, World Politics, and elsewhere.