Abstract: Autonomous systems are often lauded as revolutionary. However, what makes them revolutionary is still up for debate. We identify assumptions about the revolutionary effect of autonomy and draw on historical work to examine how these characteristics have affected past conflicts. Our look at the past suggests where these systems may be most revolutionary is in cost mitigation—both political and economic. Mitigating economic cost helps create mass, firepower, and resiliency while mitigating political cost allows states to control force with escalation risks and domestic support. This balance is key for states that rely on autonomous systems to win competition strategies.

Read the paper: Looking back to look forward: Autonomous systems, military revolutions, and the importance of cost

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