Ethical and Legal Limits to the Diffusion of Self-Produced Autonomous Weapons




3D printing, artificial intelligence, AWS, LAWS , autonomous weapons , biometric recognition


The theme of self-produced weapons intertwines diversified ideas of an ethical, legal, engineering and data science nature. The critical starting point concerns the use of 3D printing for the self-production of weapons: the doctrinal and ethical discussion is open, while from a case-law point of view no published decisions have been found. From a technical point of view it should be noted that, being produced with materials other than metal, the weapons in question would increase their danger, since it would not be possible to ascertain their possession through metal detectors.

This possibility demonstrates how the combination of the application of 3D printing and AI can lead to further development of Autonomous Weapon Systems, especially drones, which are no longer confined to science fiction novels, but may appear on the market for goods and even become available for mass consumption, and it stresses the need for the promotion of negotiations for the drafting of an international treaty banning the production and use of lethal autonomous weapons.

The combination of such printers with biometric facial recognition algorithms raises concerns for the increasing issues of physical, individual and collective safety that may arise. In fact, the biometric recognition technology allows the identification of individuals through the measurement and analysis of the somatic or behavioural traits; it is based on intelligent software, modelled on the human ability to recognize and identify faces by collecting and analysing huge amounts of data, and it is able to evolve its skills beyond its programmer’s initial intention. It is clear that allowing self-production of such devices by non-expert users could produce more damages than benefits.

The purpose of this contribution is to study how to regulate the effects of such self-made autonomous robots, since their use may have a devastating and disruptive effect on public integrity and social peace, especially in case of violent riots.