“The future of science fiction? We’re living in it.” The father of the literary genre cyberpunk, William Ford Gibson, summed up the meaning of his own visionary novels in this way. The popular fiction that made him famous is nothing more than an anticipation of reality, an interpretation of certain premonitory signs. So it seems as if we are scrolling through the pages of one of his books when we read, for instance, from a press release, that the “bionic” soldier is ready to appear in France and elsewhere.
Winning the wars of the future
In Paris, the research program of the Army of tomorrow is blazing ahead, according to a release by the press agency Adnkronos (reported also by CNN). Medical treatments to improve performance in battle, prosthetics, and under-the-skin electronic implants will be the “real new weapon to win the wars of the future.” The aim is to equip French military personnel with devices and drugs designed to improve their “physical, cognitive, perceptual and psychological capacities”. Not only that. Through connection with tracking and geolocation systems, these devices will put them in constant contact with their military bases.
The placet of the Ethics Committee
The “bionic” soldier was endorsed by the French military’s ethics committee. In the report, just made public, they also authorize the development of medical treatments that prevent pain, stress, and fatigue, as well as the taking of substances that improve a soldier’s mental stamina in case he is captured by the enemy. France, the committee says, must maintain the “operational superiority of its armed forces in a challenging strategic context,” while respecting the laws governing the armed forces, humanitarian law and the “fundamental values of our society.” There are some provisos added: such changes cannot alter the soldier’s ability to manage the use of force, his sense of “humanity”, or his free will.
“Deadly machines” by 2035
Advances in military technology are also taking place across the Channel. General Nick Carter, a senior officer in the U.K. Army, said that one day the British Army might fill its ranks with “soldier robots.” According to Carter, over the next 15 years, these transhumans in camouflage will “change the face” of warfare. In fact, one robotics expert, Charles Glar, predicts that by 2035, the U.S. military will create “deadly, highly effective” machines.
To believe that such enhancement through augmented reality will remain confined to the military is wishful thinking. iFamNews has already dealt with the giant strides that scientism is making on several fronts: from the Promethean claim to defeat disease and the biological clock to the dystopia of the artificial uterus that generates life outside the sexual act. And the distinctions of the ethics committees are only reassuring up to a certain point: history teaches us that ethical boundaries are often destined to be broken. Especially when the lust to prevail in the geopolitical chessboard is shameless.
The French Minister’s warning
The French Defence Minister, Florence Parly, who invites us to be realistic: “Not everyone has the same scruples as we do and we must prepare for such a future.” She warns that things could change “in the light of future developments”. What is the exact meaning of that last sentence? Could it be that even those who today place ethical constraints on scientific progress could tomorrow tear them down in order to compete with armies of less ethically scrupulous countries?
The future is now
It is worth taking up an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal by John Ratcliffe, director of US National Intelligence. His attentions turn to the Far East. “U.S. intelligence,” he says, “has shown that China has even conducted tests on Army members in hopes of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities.” Ratcliffe adds: “There are no ethical boundaries in Beijing’s pursuit of power” [emphasis added]. These words have been dismissed by China’s foreign ministry as a “mixture of lies”.
The appeal to the UN
In the meantime, research in this field is also proceeding apace across the Atlantic: the United States army, reports CNN, is investing a lot of money in researching an implant that would allow the human brain to communicate with computers. But concerns about a transhumanist drift also nag at those in the camp. It was three years ago that 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies made an appeal to the United Nations to ask it to curb the rush toward robot soldiers. “We don’t have much time to act: once we open Pandora’s box, it will be difficult to close it again,” the missive concluded.
As Gibson wrote, we already live inside the future of science fiction. The challenge is to avoid getting crushed.