8th Euro-ISME Annual Conference 2018

“The Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies in Warfare”

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Venue: Infantery Academy Toledo (Spain) / Date : 13th – 16th of May 2018

Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies in Warfare

The nature of warfare and conflict is changing rapidly in ways that present challenging ethical and legal dilemmas. Warfare has, of course, been in near constant change since time immemorial. The invention of the spear, siege engines, gunpowder, the musket, the repeating rifle, the machine gun, the tank and the aeroplane mark just a few of the important step changes in the evolution of warfare.

So, are we living through just another step change, or is there something radically different about what is happening now? At its 2018 spring conference in Toledo, Spain, Euro-ISME will look in depth at these important issues with a particular focus on 3 important areas:


Whilst it is the drone (whether armed or unarmed) that has most captured the public’s interest, new technology goes way beyond the ‘eye in the sky’. We are fast approaching a time when autonomous or semi-autonomous weapon systems will become combat viable and artificial intelligence moves from science fiction to science fact. New technologies also include more sophisticated intelligence gathering and communications monitoring, as well as a whole range of emerging cyber warfare techniques.

Ethical and legal considerations

The current laws of armed conflict, the Geneva Conventions and Just War Theory all make 2 key assumptions. Firstly, that acts are carried out as a result of human intervention – the apparatus of warfare is inanimate and can have an effect only following direct human input. Secondly, warfare is an essentially kinetic activity involving projectiles or equipment which are instruments of physical force. Thus, the current legal and ethical frameworks appear poorly suited to an era of cyber warfare, hybrid warfare, terrorism and non state actors. How deeply should we be concerned about this – both at the ius ad bellum level and the ius in bello level?

Are emerging military technologies changing the nature of the relationship between civil society and the military?

The nature of the relationship between civil society and the military is not immune from the seismic shift in how we all now interact. The way in which people relate to each other socially has been transformed through the near universal use of modern communications in general, and social media in particular.

In the past, ‘war’ meant armed attacks, invasions and the maintenance of large combat ready forces. This model of conflict presents real physical, political and economic risks. However, for example, cyber propaganda, whether to seek new recruits or perhaps to influence an election, is much less risky. Fake news, from untraceable sources, can be an effective tool in moving public opinion before during and after a conflict. Clausewitz knew this when he identified the will of the people as one of the trinity of factors necessary for success in warfare. We now live in an age where a single news story – unverified or not – can move public opinion dramatically.

The issue is further complicated by the militarisation of police forces, the use of intelligence agency assets to engage with an enemy and targeted killings using military or other assets.

Taken together, all these issues raise the important question of how do we ensure that ethics remains relevant to modern conflict and can exercise a positive influence on it.


Get ready to join us in Toledo and make your contribution to this important debate. Information on how to submit an abstract and the like will be added in autumn 2017. Expect the deadline to submit your proposal to be in early 2018!

For all further enquiries, please contact Ms. Ivana Gošić, admin@euroisme.eu come back for updates on this page.