A report(1) from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center published last year, presents the results of a survey of current and emerging technologies relevant to assisting and augmenting human performance. Four cyborg technologies are identified as technically feasible by 2050 or earlier:
- Ocular enhancements to imaging, sight, and situational awareness;
- Restoration and programmed muscular control through an optogenetic bodysuit sensor web;
- Auditory enhancement for communication and protection; and
- Direct neural enhancement of the human brain for two-way data transfer.
In particular, the development of direct neural enhancements of the human brain for two-way data transfer would create a revolutionary advancement in future military capabilities.
This technology is predicted to facilitate read/write capability between humans and machines and between humans through brain-to-brain interactions. These interactions would allow warfighters direct communication with unmanned and autonomous systems, as well as with other humans, to optimize command and control systems and operations. The potential for direct data exchange between human neural networks and microelectronic systems could revolutionize tactical warfighter communications, speed the transfer of knowledge throughout the chain of command, and ultimately dispel the “fog” of war. Direct neural enhancement of the human brain through neuro-silica interfaces could improve target acquisition and engagement and accelerate defensive and offensive systems.
The other three are also likely to be adopted in some form by warfighters and civil society.
The study groups thinks that a generalized perception exists in the United States that adversaries are more likely to adopt technologies but U.S. populations are reluctant or unwilling to field because of ethical concerns.
U.S. leadership should use existing and newly developed forums to discuss impacts to interoperability with allied partners as we approach the year 2050. Department of Defence should invest in the development of dynamic legal, security, and ethical frameworks under its control that anticipate emerging technologies. And efforts should be undertaken to reverse negative cultural narratives of enhancement technologies.
Across popular social and open-source media, literature, and film, the use of machines to enhance the physical condition of the human species has received a distorted and dystopian narrative in the name of entertainment. A more realistic and balanced (if not more positive) narrative, along with transparency in the government’s approach to technology adoption, will serve to better educate the public, mitigate societal apprehensions, and remove barriers to productive adoption of these new technologies.
In Spain, tonight is “noche de reyes”, the magic one when the three wise men come with presents for every (good) child. And what child could resist the allure of a super soldier?
(1) Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DOD. Via U.S. Army Mad Sci. (The findings in this report are not an official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.)