Faculty Fellow Brad Allenby published and article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists exploring the technological advancements that could lead to modified warriors. Designer Warriors: Altering Conflict- and humanity itself? discusses the developments in technology have been increasing rapidly, leaving virtually every aspect of human beings contingent and subject to design. These developments have a broad range of enhancements, ranging from gene editing, to cognitive manipulation to computer- brain interfaces, leaving the possibilities for enhancements open.
From a military standpoint, these enhancements have been pursued enthusiastically and open up options for enhanced warriors. These warriors may be the solution to challenges nations with powerful militaries face, but could also bring risks along with the newfound enhancements. Enhanced warriors could be the key for nations to project power without suffering casualties, and strengthen the combat abilities drastically. With varying levels of enhancement, from temporary enhancements to a human to integrated wetware/software/hardware meta systems that will extend beyond individual human capabilities.
Considering that the average number of births per woman is below the replacement rate, these enhanced warriors will also help with the problem of low birth rates in globally powerful states, so their military doesn’t have to suffer for the low volume of soldiers. But these enhancements pose a risk of destabilizing laws of armed conflict and related international norms, and pose a challenge when it comes to the ethical, institutional and operational realms of combat. Questions are raised on how these enhances soldiers will be governed and what their standards will be, the ethical dilemma of possibly altering a warrior’s identity, the implications of reversible enhancements, and more.
Many enhancements are both effective and unproblematic, for example, pharmaceuticals are used in today’s military for missions where alertness is key, like long flights. But there are some proposed enhancements that need to be evaluated for ethical, institutional, and operational implications.