Tun "Reth" Channareth with the Nobel Peace Prize he accepted on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and Jody Williams in 1997 for the Land Mine Ban Treaty. Photo: Heather Faulkner

I am the co-producer, director, and writer of this film. My aim is to draw critical public awareness and action to the current and future development and employment of autonomous weapons.

Lethal autonomous weapons are weapons that use artificial intelligence, or AI, to operate on their own – you may be familiar with autonomous drones, such as the Iranian-made “suicide drones,” that have wrecked death and destruction in Kyiv on October 19th this year.

The International Criminal Court is actively investigating war crimes in the Ukraine as the war rages on. In previous conflicts, war crimes investigations centred around the decisions people made to target and kill innocent people, but what if there is no human pulling the trigger or aiming the munition? What if, in the case of the “suicide drones,” the decisions are left up to software?

As the world bears witness to a new kind of warfare, we know that many war crime verdicts won’t be clear cut. This documentary asks the question, what happens when we automate decision making in conflict and defence arenas? Who or what is responsible for mistakes? Where does the accountability lie?

In my career as a photojournalist and documentary storyteller, I have focused on character-driven, outsider stories that explore being, belonging and identity in relation to spatial politics.

The policing and surveillance of bodies is a frequent trope in my projects; the last two books I published as an academic have documented how individuals have prevailed over discrimination, tyranny and genocide (lesbians who lived through the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era of Qld in “North of the Border: Stories from the A Matter of Time Project”, 2016, UWAP, and musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge genocide to continue the UNESCO-declared intangible heritage art of Chapei in “Living Heritage: The Artists of Cambodian Chapei” 2018, Kampu Mera).

I spent eight years in Eastern Europe (1996 – 2003) covering stories on reunification, restitution, human rights and racism against Romany and Holocaust survivors. Over the last decade I have documented NGOs in Cambodia and Laos engaged in clearing landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over and from the Viet Nam and Khmer Rouge conflicts.

I am a board member of SafeGround, an Australian non-profit that is part of the multi-national Cluster-Munitions Coalition (CMC), the 1997 Nobel-Peace-Prize winning champions against the proliferation of land mines, cluster munitions and now, autonomous weapons.

This is my bias – as a witness to the deadly legacies of war, I am skeptical of claims purporting autonomous weapons to be “safer” than those wielded by human hands and human minds.

I am also a documentarian, and it is my duty to provide a fair and balanced reportage.

My strategy is to engage the audience as informed stakeholders in the present and future development of national military and defence systems, so that they may make informed decisions about the ways and means by which they are governed – and live.

Heather Faulkner

writer/director/co-producer

You do wonder if there are enough people in the world thinking about the consequences of artificial intelligence and technology.
Stephen Fry
On Ethics 2021