Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis (Undergraduate)

Department or Program

Department of Computer Science

First Advisor

Charles C. Palmer


Today, autonomous weapons systems promise to make war more precise and effective while removing the human component from the battlefield. With the improvement of deep learning and computer vision, machines will soon be able to navigate and search through contested environments, discriminate between targets, and engage appropriately. The memoirs of drone pilots point to the evolving psychological impact of killing caused by the increase in the amount of empathy and emotional connectedness that drone pilots develop towards their target during the intimate surveillance period. A war fought without "skin-in-the-game" enables drone pilots to become better moral agents and decreases the amount of dehumanization inherent in most types of combat. The decentralized architecture of remote combat produces a more correct following of the Laws of War by reducing the influence of the individual drone pilot. A human "on-the-loop" system promises to reduce the amount of moral injury incurred by drone pilots and maximize the efficacy and ethicality of the decision-making process at the same time.


Originally posted in the Dartmouth College Computer Science Technical Report Series, number TR2020-885.