The US Army is looking into technology that will allow them to field “cyborg” soldiers in the future. Experts are expressing concerns about the ethical and legal ramifications of such research.
The Combat Capabilities Development Command recently released a report in which they noted that soldiers’ limbs could potentially be strengthened, their eyes could be outfitted with infrared and ultraviolet vision and their ears equipped to hear subsonic sounds.
This type of US Army technology would create “Terminator” styled soldiers and the command stated that it could happen by 2050.
The experts warn that humanity may not be prepared for these types of technological advances. They also expressed concerns about how soldiers augmented with such devices would be able to transition to civilian life after service.
Peter Emanuel is a researcher with the US Army. He said that these types of ethical and legal matters will need to be dealt with in the next 30 years and the Army is not prepared for that yet.
A “cyborg” is an organism that has been augmented with technology. The word is a portmanteau of “cybernetic” and “organism.” It was first used in a NASA report by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Cline.
Emanuel noted that the ethical issues are different when a service member has lost a limb or sensory organ from an IED blast.
Those service members are outfitted with prosthetic limbs or implants. He says that is a completely different situation than giving enhanced limbs to a soldier for the purpose of “giving them super speed.”
He says also that there needs to be consideration for how augmented soldiers will interact with their non-augmented peers. Some of the issues relate to morale and camaraderie between the two types of service members.
The authors of the report confessed that there is a lot of work needed in order for people to accept soldiers who have received these adaptations.
They specifically note the potential difficulties the soldiers may have returning to civilian life.
One of the problems with returning enhanced soldiers to civilian life is the advantages they will have over individuals who have not received enhancements.
The team posited that it may be necessary to return the soldiers back to a “normal” level when they leave the military.
Emanuel used the example of a soldier who essentially has a super computer installed in their brain. Would they be accepted at a card table in a casino? He worries about the stigma this individual will carry because of their enhancements.
He also notes that the technology in these individuals would be considered military assets.
Such people may not be allowed to travel because the US government would be concerned about this technology ending up in the hands of an organization or government that is unfriendly to the US.
A person who participated in the research study noted that they are not allowed to take a cell phone or iWatch into a sensitive compartmentalized information facility. Will someone with the same type of technology built into their bodies be allowed in?
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The report is considered a “thought experiment.” It is not likely that we will see such soldiers by 2050. However, the report indicates that the technologies could be fairly common by then.