Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell to speak at international AI summit at The Hague

Author: Denise Wager

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Mary Ellen O’Connell, the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School, will be one of the distinguished speakers at the first international summit on Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military Domain: REAIM 2023.

The summit will be hosted in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea, and will be held at the World Forum in The Hague on February 15-16. It will bring together foreign ministers, high-level representatives of government bodies, civil society organizations, knowledge institutions, and the private sector to discuss the responsible applications of artificial intelligence in the military domain.

O’Connell, a highly respected expert on international law and the use of force, international dispute resolution, and international legal theory, will give the keynote address for one of the academic forums on the topic, “What AI Must Learn About the Use of Lethal Force.”

She will address the fact that autonomous weapons systems raise among the most fundamental legal and ethical challenges of our times, including how selecting persons to be killed by autonomous machines affronts human dignity, and how AI learning is unpredictable — it is a black box — meaning indiscriminate killing cannot be ruled out. She will discuss how the international community needs to respond with a robust rule on meaningful human control and a mandate that all learning programs designed for weapons systems include only data on authentic law on the use of force, peace, and human rights.

O’Connell will also participate in a panel discussion about the dilemmas around responsible artificial intelligence in the military domain and in organizational meetings for a new initiative for AI governance.

O’Connell joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 2005 and teaches courses in International Law, International Law and the Use of Force, International Dispute Resolution, International Environmental Law, Art Law and Cultural Heritage Law, and Contracts. She is also Concurrent Professor of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

She is frequently quoted in major news outlets on international law issues, most recently about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. drone strike policy, and China’s surveillance balloons.

She is the author or editor of numerous books, most recently The Art of Law in the International Community and Self-Defence Against Non-State Actors, both published by Cambridge University Press. She is also the author of three international law casebooks.

O’Connell served as a vice president of the American Society of International Law from 2010-2012, and chaired the International Law Association Committee on the Use of Force for five years. Before coming to Notre Dame, she worked as a civilian military educator for the U.S. Department of Defense in Germany.