Autonomous weapon systems

  • Type of event:

    Public Expert Discussion

  • Venue:

    Deutscher Bundestag, Paul-Löbe-Haus

  • Date:


  • Time:

    15.00 - 17.30 

AB_187_AWS Bertrand Bouchez/unsplash
Autonomous weapons systems: When machines decide over life and death

What was it about?

Weapon systems that can select and engage targets without human intervention were, not so long ago, the exclusive domain of science fiction. Technological advances made in recent years in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence have now brought this notion to the threshold of concrete implementation.

The pros and cons of autonomous weapons systems are the subject of controversy: For some, they are a blessing, as they can be used to take soldiers out of harm's way. For others, they are a curse, as they increasingly transfer the decision to use lethal force to unscrupulous machines. On behalf of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment, TAB has produced a report that comprehensively addresses technical aspects, ethical considerations and international policy issues in the context of autonomous weapons systems.

The newly published TAB report on autonomous weapon systems provided the occasion for scientists to have their say on the multifaceted aspects of the topic and for members of parliament and the interested public to have the opportunity to clarify questions and take a stand in the context of the public expert discussion.


3.00 p.m.


  • Dr. Ernst Dieter Rossmann, Member of the Bundestag, Chairman of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment

Moderation of the expert discussion and introduction

  • Dr. Reinhard Grünwald, TAB, Project Manager
3.20 p.m.

Topic block I: Technology/application scenarios

  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Frank Flemisch, Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (FKIE)
  • Dr. Jürgen Altmann, TU Dortmund
  • Johanna Polle and Dr. Christian Alwardt, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH)
3.50 p.m.

Topic Block II: Ethics/International Law/UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)

  • Dr. Bernhard Koch, Institute for Theology and Peace (ITHF)
  • Anja Dahlmann, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)
4.10 p.m.

Topic Block III: Political Classification

  • Dr. Frank Sauer, University of the Federal Armed Forces Munich
4.30 p.m.

Statements of the parliamentary groups of the Bundestag and final discussion

5.30 p.m.

End of the event

The expert discussion was broadcast live on parliamentary television. Members of the German Bundestag were able to actively participate via the video conferencing tool WebEx . The public also had the opportunity to ask questions to the experts via the adhocracy+ platform.

Further informationen

Recording of the event

(only in German)