In this podcast by the Modern War Institute (MWI), Paul Scharre talks about autonomy and the future of war. Scharre commences the discussion by differentiating between automatic, automated and autonomous weapons and the blurred lines in how these are defined. Scharre states that the essence of an autonomous weapon is that it is making its own targeting decisions; which is yet to occur.
He states that whilst there have been weapons such as homing missiles or 'fire and forget' weapons, the launcher generally has a target they intend to strike. An autonomous weapon of the future would be launched with parameters but the missile would decide what to strike (although Scharre acknowledges there are several isolated examples already in existence).
Scharre discusses current considerations regarding the employment of autonomous systems where he speaks about the current attitude of restraint exercised by the USA whereas other nations are making bolder claims about becoming fully 'roboticised' in the future. Scharre offers the question that, given the historical development of automated technology has been occurring for decades, why has it not been more widely employed? He suggests that there is an operational issue of what am I actually firing at? Or alternatively, do I want to employ a weapon system that is inside my own OODA loop (Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act)?
Scharre concludes by discussing his assessment of the future trends and characteristics of autonomous weapons.