What will the French “augmented soldiers” look like?
The Ministry of the Armed Forces unveiled its vision of the augmented soldier in early December
- The Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly spoke at the beginning of December during the Digital Defense Innovation Forum on the ethical issues linked to the question of the “augmented soldier”.
- Soldiers that look like Terminator won't be seen on the battlefield anytime soon.
- The Ministry of the Army wishes to avoid touching the bodies of soldiers.
Are we ready to see Terminator on our battlefields? During the Digital Defense Innovation Forum, on December 4, the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly spoke on the ethical issues linked to the question of the “augmented soldier”. The opportunity also to know the opinion of the Defense Ethics Committee on the subject. Will bionic soldiers replace the French troops tasked with fighting Daesh in the Sahel? Will they be the next to spend the traditional Christmas Eve with the Head of State?
When we think of the augmented man, we immediately imagine chips under the skin, brain implants capable of increasing sensory acuity, a bionic eye, high-performance exoskeletons. Part of it is, but in France, the soldiers are unlikely to take the form of the iconic character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rather, it will be a question of non-invasive augmentation of soldiers, because the army has chosen to keep the bodies of the soldiers intact.
"Yes to Iron Man and not Spiderman"
"We will always seek alternatives to invasive transformations, that is to say, increases that do not cross the body barrier," explained Florence Parly in her speech "Ethics and augmented soldier". Rather than implanting a chip under the skin, we will seek to integrate it into a uniform. In summary, we are saying yes to the Iron Man armor and no to the increase and genetic mutation of Spiderman. "
In fact, augmented soldiers have been around for a long time. Armor, shields were already used to increase the natural performance of a man. Similarly, the use of amphetamines during the Second World War made it possible to resist fatigue and increase vigilance. If the French defense prefers to put the package on the equipment rather than touching the body, the report of the ethics committee recalls however that it is "imperative not to inhibit research on the augmented soldier (...) in order to avoid any risk of capacity stalling of our armies ”.
In the future, we could see a proliferation of exoskeletons, kinds of armor that give superhuman strength to its occupant. Today there are already some. The army uses a motorized exoskeleton that supports the legs in order to save the physical strength of the soldier during long marches or when loaded. Other prototypes that help carry heavier loads or fight have been developed around the world.
The neuro-ergonomics of cockpits is another interesting playground for improving aeronautical safety. Through man-machine interfaces, the idea is to analyze the behavior of the pilot to help him. "There will be so much information that it will be necessary to find a way to present it to the pilot without hindering the progress of his mission, while he will be surrounded by drones and other types of aircraft, analyzes Emmanuel Chiva, director of the Defense Innovation Agency (AID). Today, technology supports the military: saving its forces and securing its missions.
Robots instead of humans
Eugenics or genetic practices for the purpose of augmentation are also prohibited by the ethics committee. The episode "Men against fire" of the famous dystopian series Black Mirror is not about to see the light of day. It features soldiers who do not see the true appearance of their enemies. These take the form of atrocious monsters - even civilians - to facilitate the combatant's task. The French army refuses to infringe on the free will of the soldier or to diminish his judgment. The risks of dehumanization would be too great. But it is not excluded to see the appearance of robot soldiers on the ground.
“It is clear that in the coming years, there will be robots in all armies that will go into combat,” continued the director of AID. Having robots that fight for you and that allows you to write a letter of congratulations to the industrialist who built them rather than a letter of condolence to the family of soldiers, we are working on it ”. It will always take human brains to give orders to artificial intelligence, but soldiers could well change their faces. And this, much faster than one might think.