At the 2016 Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS) held in Geneva on 14 April, 2016, Dr. Eliav Lieblich argued that a key problem posed by AWS is that they constitute a use of administrative powers against individuals without the exercise of proper discretion:
“AWS are based on pre-programmed algorithms, and therefore – as long as they are incapable of human-like metacognition – when they are deployed administrative discretion is bound. Operating on the basis of bound discretion is per se arbitrary and contradicts basic notions of administrative law, notions that … complement modern standards of international humanitarian and human rights law. This realization explains better some of the concerns relating to AWS, which are usually expressed in circular arguments and counter-arguments between consequentialist and deontological approaches.”
The presentation is found here (pdf).
For the more detailed argument see here.
The draft Report of the 2016 Informal Meeting of Experts (pdf) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, submitted by the Chairperson included the following reference to the bound deiscretion argument:
“62. The importance to exercise discretion-was acknowledged in several statements. The requirement to exercise discretion in any decision taken in a situation of conflict, and the question of whether discretion could be exercised by LAWS was taken up by several delegations. Some found it useful to consider modern warfare as a form of governance in which an executive takes authoritative decisions over humans, and takes into account relevant principles from administrative law. It was suggested that considering whether there is a qualitative difference between human and machine judgement might guide further thinking on the issue.”