Accession Number:



Killer Robots: Death to the Profession of Arms?

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Master's Thesis]

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This paper explores how technology influences change in the profession of arms, at both the organizational level and individual level. The profession of arms is defined here using the four key characteristicsnamely expertise, responsibility, corporateness, and ethics and ethosand the four key military virtuesspecifically discipline, courage, competence, and self-sacrifice or selfless serviceas identified in the 2017 version of The Armed Forces Officer. The paper starts by exploring the definitions of these characteristics and virtues and briefly discusses the Air Forces evolving focus on itself as a profession. Two case studies are used to explore the relationship between the profession of arms and technology. For each case study, technology is considered from two different angles. The first case study, involving, intercontinental ballistic missiles ICBMs, begins by evaluating organizational-level decisions during the development phase to see how the four professionalization characteristics influenced or were influenced by the development of this technology. The analysis continues by considering these same characteristics in light of how missileers employed ICBMS. The employment section also discusses the four military virtues role in this interaction between the professional and the technology. The findings from this first historical case study are then applied to a future-oriented case, which considers how the profession of arms could influence and be influenced by the potential development and employment of artificial intelligence, specifically lethal autonomous weapon systems. Based on the findings from both case studies, recommendations, such as using The Armed Forces Officer, or similar book as a lifelong teaching tool and the Air Force studying itself as a profession, are made for how the profession of arms can be prepared to shape the development and employment of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]