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The swarm that we already are: artificially intelligent (AI) swarming ‘insect drones’, targeting and international humanitarian law in a posthuman ecology

Matilda Arvidsson

Keywords: artificial intelligence; swarming AI; international humanitarian law; drone warfare; insects; war machine

Over the last fifty-odd years the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has launched programs aiming at emulating and incorporating insect technologies in military technology. The US Army Unmanned Aircrafts Systems Roadmap 2010–2035 has specified insect swarming as a field of development for Unmanned Aviation Systems. While legal scholarship has paid substantial attention to drones, autonomous weapons systems and artificial intelligence (AI), developments based on insect swarming technologies have been largely ignored. This article takes emerging AI swarming technologies in military warfare systems as its starting point and asks about the significance of the swarming insect in and through contemporary International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and warfare. Taking up Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's notions of ‘the swarm’ and the ‘war machine’, and drawing on critical environmental legal scholarship, the article argues that rather than dispersing the human from its central position in the ‘targeting loop’, the increased interest in insects for commercial and warfare purposes is an intensification of transhumanist desires and an acceleration of late capitalism. As a counter-move, and as a contribution to a posthumanist turn in IHL, the article calls for becoming-insect, swarm and minoritarian as an epistemological practice and ontological shift in IHL and its critical scholarship, resulting in a posthumanitarian legal ordering of becoming.

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