Published March 12, 2021 | Version v1
Presentation Open

Military Emerging Disruptive Technologies: Compliance with International Law and Ethical Standards



Military emerging disruptive technologies (EDTs) have a rapid and major effect on technologies that already exist and disrupt or overturn traditional practices and may revolutionize governmental structures, economies and international security. Margaret Kosal finds that military applications of EDT have even greater potential than nuclear weapons to radically change the balance of power.[1] The debate, stimulated by the Group of Governmental Experts on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems (GGE on LAWS) established by the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), has focused on artificial intelligence, cyber weapons and drones.[2] A broader discussion should include all military EDTs, inter alia: space and hypersonic weapons; directed-energy weapons/laser and photonic weapons, just to name a fewThough leaders have begun to become aware of legal and ethical implications of the military use of EDTs, these issues remain in the background: security concerns are of pivotal importance[3] and a most of the information and documents are kept confidential and their circulation is restricted.[4] This paper aims to investigate the compliance of military EDTs with international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and with ethical principles.


[1] Kosal M.E. (ed.) (2019). Disruptive and Game Changing Technologies in Modern Warfare. Springer.

[2] Brehm M (2017). Defending the Boundary – Constraints and Requirements on the Use of Autonomous Weapon Systems under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law. The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Academy, Briefing No. 9; Jiménez-Segovia R (2019). Autonomous weapon systems in the Convention on certain conventional weapons: Legal and ethical shadows of an autonomy, under human control? REEI, 37, 1–33; Armin K (2009). Killer robots: Legality and ethicality of autonomous weapons. Ashgate.

[3] National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (2019). Initial Report. NSCAI; Harrigan G (ed.) (2019). On the Horizon: Security Challenges at the Nexus of State and Non-State Actors and Emerging/Disruptive Technologies. U.S. Dept. of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. See also NATO S&T (2020). Science & Technology Trends: 2020-2040.

[4] Bidwell CA et al. (2018). Emerging Disruptive Technologies and Their Potential Threat to Strategic Stability and National Security. Federation of American Scientists.


Paper presented at the international conference "Intelligent and Autonomous: Emergent Digital Technologies and the Challenges of Disinformation, Security, and Regulation", held online on 12 March, organized by the Department of Public Communication and the Faculty of Law at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania. This project proposal was awarded with the Seal of Excellence of the European Commission. The author gratefully acknowledges the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal, for supporting this study through grant SFRH/BD/136170/2018.


Intelligence & Autonomous interdisciplinary online conference 2021 - Presentation Marco Marsili (EDT).pdf