Paul Scharre Wins Colby Award For Book on AI and Autonomous Weapons, “Army of None”

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Paul Scharre has won the 2019 William E. Colby Award for his book, “Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War.” Now in its 20th year, the Colby prize is awarded annually by Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, to a first solo work of fiction or nonfiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of military history, intelligence operations or international affairs.

A former U.S. Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Scharre is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He played a leading role in establishing policies on unmanned and autonomous systems and emerging weapons technologies while working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2008 to 2013. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time, Foreign Affairs, and Politico. He appears frequently on CNN, Fox News, NPR, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Virginia.

“Army of None” explores what could happen when next-generation weapons change warfare in a fast-paced and exciting nonfiction narrative. Scharre examines the role of artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, the complex legal and ethical issues involved, and their growing use worldwide. Combining military history, philosophy, science, and global policy with interviews with defense experts, activists, analysts, and psychologists, Scharre argues that technology should be used when it provides benefits and makes war more humane, spares civilian lives, and increases precision, but that autonomous technology is no replacement for human empathy, judgment, and decision-making.

“I'm incredibly humbled and honored that ‘Army of None’ was chosen for the 2019 Colby Award,” Scharre said.

In a review of “Army of None” on his GatesBlog, Bill Gates wrote, “It’s the book I had been waiting for. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Scharre is a great thinker who has both on-the-ground experience and a high-level view.” In The New York Times, Thomas E. Ricks called it, “One of the most interesting books on military affairs that I have read in some time.” 

Colby Award winners receive a $5,000 author honorarium provided through the generosity of the Chicago-based Pritzker Military Foundation. The award and honorarium will be presented to Scharre at Norwich University during the Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium, Sept. 24-25, 2019, in Northfield, Vermont.

Finalists for the 2019 Colby Award included: “A Spy Named Orphan” by Roland Phillips (WW Norton & Co), “Brotherhood of Mamluks” by Brad Graft (The Sager Group LLC ), “The China Mission” by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan (WW Norton & Co,), “Facts and Fears” by James R. Clapper (Viking), and “War on Peace” by Ronan Farrow (W.W. Norton & Co.).   

“Paul Scharre’s Colby Award-winning book is an important, thoughtful and timely appraisal of the future of warfare and how autonomous weapons may well affect how wars are fought and possibly decided by artificial intelligence,” Carlo D’Este, Colby Symposium co-founder said. “ ‘Army of None’ is also a sober warning that we’re embarking on an age of dangerous and uncharted waters.”


Norwich University Peace and War Center

Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium

September 24-25, 2019: Warefare in the 21st Century: Future Battlegrounds

About the Colby Award 

Named for the late ambassador and former CIA director William E. Colby, the Colby Award recognizes a first solo work of fiction or nonfiction that has made a significant contribution to the public’s understanding of intelligence operations, military history or international affairs. The William E. Colby Award began at Norwich University in 1999. Previous recipients of the Colby Award include Nisid Hajari, Thomas McKenna, James Bradley, Nathaniel Fick, Jack Jacobs, Dexter Filkins, Marcus Luttrell, John Glusman, Karl Marlantes, and Steven Sodergren.

About the Pritzker Military Museum & Library

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is located in downtown Chicago, Ill. Open to the public, the Museum & Library features an extensive collection of books, programs, artifacts, and rotating exhibits covering many eras and branches of the world’s military that is available to visitors in person and online. Opened in 2003, the Museum & Library is a center where citizens and service members come together to learn about military history and affairs. Each year, the Museum & Library awards the prestigious Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing to recognize a living author who has made a lifetime contribution to the understanding of military history affairs. The Museum & Library is supported by its members and sponsors.”

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). 

Norwich will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders, Norwich launched the Forging the Future campaign in 2014. The five-year campaign, which is timed to culminate in 2019, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities and is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.

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