The Concept of “the Human” in the Critique of Autonomous Weapons Autonomous weapons systems (AWS) – so-called “killer robots” – are no longer the stuff of science fiction. In Libya, Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and most recently Ukraine, states have used weapons in combat that have an autonomous mode. And it is only a matter of time before AWS become ubiquitous on the battlefield, because the world’s most powerful states currently devote tens of billions of dollars to developing, manufacturing, and even exporting increasingly sophisticated versions of them. As AWS have proliferated, so have calls to prohibit their use. Some objections to AWS are legal, such as the idea that international humanitarian law (IHL) permits only humans to use lethal force. Others are deontological, such as the contention that allowing machines to kill is inconsistent with human dignity. And still others are consequentialist, such as the claim that using AWS will lead to unnecessary civilian casualties because only human soldiers are capable of complying with IHL. Despite their differences, all of these critiques emphasise the need for war to remain an exclusively human endeavour. The “human” they imagine, however, is an idealized one: the traditional Enlightenment subject who is rational, self-determining, and capable of self-control. That conception of human subjectivity is contradicted by decades of research into how humans actually make decisions, particularly in dangerous and stressful situations such as armed conflict. As this lecture will show, once we accept humans as they are, not how critics imagine them to be, the case against AWS collapses: war fought with killer robots is likely to be far more “humane” than war fought solely by human soldiers. Bio: Kevin Jon Heller is currently Professor of International Law and Security at the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Military Studies and Professor of Law at the Australian National University. His books include The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law (OUP, 2011) and four co-edited volumes: The Handbook of Comparative Criminal Law (Stanford University Press, 2010), The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (OUP, 2013), The Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law (OUP, 2018), and Contingency in International Law: On the Possibility of Different Legal Histories (OUP, 2021). He currently serves as Special Advisor to the ICC Prosecutor on International Criminal Law Discourse, is a member of the Advisory Board of the Bar Human Rights Association of England and Wales, and has been a member of Opinio Juris, the world’s oldest international-law blog, for more than 15 years.