Throughout history, new military technologies have had profound ramifications: The rise of gunpowder and cannon created economies of scale that encouraged the emergence of nation-states, and Prussia used railroads to surprise the Austrians at Königgrätz, beginning the end of the Austrian Empire. Today, emerging military technologies - including unmanned aerial vehicles, directed-energy weapons, lethal autonomous robots, and cyber weapons - raise the prospect of upheavals in military practice so fundamental that they challenge assumptions underlying long-established international laws of war, particularly those relating to the primacy of the state and the geographic bounds of warfare. But the laws of war have been developed over a long period, with commentary and input from many cultures. What would seem appropriate in this age of extraordinary technological change, the author concludes, is a reconsideration of the laws of war in a deliberate and focused international dialogue that includes a range of cultural and institutional perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-31
Number of pages11
JournalBulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • emerging technologies
  • international humanitarian law
  • laws of armed conflict
  • laws of war
  • military technologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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