As innovations in military technologies race toward ever-greater levels of automation and autonomy, debates over the ethics of violent technologies tread water. Discussions about whether lethal drones are the most moral and effective tools to combat terrorism, or whether killer robots could kill more ethically than humans, often end up conflating efficiency with morality and legality with ethicality. Such conceptual confusions raise urgent questions about what is at work in the relationship between lethal technologies, their uses, and the ethical justifications provided for technologised practices of political violence. What enables the framing of instruments for killing as inherently ethical? What socio-political rationale underpins these processes? And what kind of ethical framework for violence is produced in such a socio-political context? Death Machines reframes current debates on the ethics of technologised practices of violence, arguing that the way we conceive of the ethics of contemporary warfare is itself imbued with a set of bio-technological rationalities that work as limits. The task for critical thought must therefore be to unpack, engage, and challenge these limits. Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, the book offers a close reading of the technology-biopolitics-complex that informs and produces contemporary subjectivities, highlighting the perilous implications this has for how we think about the ethics of political violence, both now and in the future.
outmoded as humans. Today's machines are designed to
outpace human capabilities. In contrast, old-fashioned human organisms lack
comparable processing capabilities and might, eventually, ‘face extinction’ (Singer
2009 : 415). Echoing this anxiety, technology tycoon
Elon Musk has issued a dire warning about the dangers of rapidly advancing AI and
the prospects of killerrobots as capable of ‘deleting humans like
spam’ (Musk 2014 ; Gibbs 2017 ). Musk is not alone
October 2017 ).
Bowcott , Owen . 2015 . ‘ UK Opposes International Ban on Developing “KillerRobots” ’, The
Guardian , 13 April.
Leveringhaus , Alex . 2016 . Ethics and Autonomous Weapons . Oxford : Palgrave Macmillan .
Muoio , Danielle . 2015 . ‘ Russia and China are Building Highly Autonomous KillerRobots ’, Business Insider , 15
Rosenberg , Matthew and John
within which they take place. This question is concerned as much with what
is happening in the present as it is concerned with why this present might
be as it is. In such a vein, this book is motivated by questions about the
‘what’ and the ‘why’ of contemporary technologies of
violence and the underpinnings of their ethics. The emergence of new technologies
for violent practices – from lethal drones to so-called ‘killerrobots’, to weaponised Artificial