About me

WP_20150922_17_24_33_Pro (2)Hello,

I’m Josh. I’m doing a PhD in the Law School at Lancaster University. I’m funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership.

Seeing as my PhD is funded by public money, I thought my research should be open to the public online, rather than just in academic journals.

My research is on the legality of Autonomous Weapon Systems, some people call them Killer Robots. They don’t actually exist yet, but lots of people expect them to be created quite soon. Some militaries aren’t keen on the idea of lethal-autonomy, but a progression towards some level of autonomy and automation in future conflicts is almost inevitable.

If you’re struggling to workout what my research is actually about, I’m basically looking at the legal issues of putting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator onto a battlefield, and sending it after terrorists.

My research is split into three broad areas:

  • The legal issues of decision processes and automation in current targeted killing and warfare. This section will look at how so-called ‘Kill Lists’ are created, what legal thresholds are required to put a terrorist onto a kill list, and what levels of automation are involved in these decisions.
  • The legality of autonomous weapon systems. This section will look at lethal-autonomous decision-making by the weapon systems, and whether they are capable of making such decisions according to the Law of Armed Conflict, and International Human Rights Law.
  • Finally, I will look at accountability and responsibility for autonomy. This will involve investigating where potential failures of autonomous systems can be linked back to individuals, or organisations. This section will hopefully be able to find parallels with self-driving cars, and other emerging systems controlled by Artificial Intelligence.

I hope you will find my research and my blog interesting. I aim to write updates regularly, but they may sometimes become infrequent.

As I aim to keep blog posts reasonably brief, and responsive, as well as using these writings as a method of disseminating opinion and ideas, I will be using it as a method to create and crystalise my own ideas. I would therefore ask that you don’t take these posts as my full and reasoned legal opinions, as they won’t be written as full academic articles. But, please see them as a collective of ideas I’ve had, that may be reasonably well-informed.

My profile at Lancaster University is here.

If you want to look at some of my other academic work, you can see it here.

You can see a couple of my defence articles here.

If you want to tweet, or follow me, you can do so @JoshGHughes

If you want to get in touch, you can find my details under the ‘Contact Me’ tab.


All of the views expressed in my blog are mine alone, unless I reference someone else. They do not represent Lancaster University, The North West Consortium, or the Arts and Humanities Research Council.