Tuesday , October 17 2017
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Will We Even Need Human Soldiers in the Near Future?

Exo-skeleton technology*Begin transmission.* Day #37. The robots are coming, and frankly, I am getting ready before it’s too late. You’ve seen ‘The Terminator’ documentary: shape-shifting metal compounds, time travel, giant metal snakes… So I’ve bought an underground bunker, hired a mad scientist, and am busy constructing my own private remote-controlled security guards. Meanwhile, the rest of the world continues to use humans until the last days of their useful working lives, deluding itself that the wars of the future will still require human boots on the ground. Fools. And here’s why I think that the days of the human soldier in the battles of the future are numbered.

Part of my silo is dedicated to the creation of drones, remotely-guided air-borne robots equipped with cameras and missiles that do the fighting instead of soldiers on the ground. Since 2002 there have been over 420 killer-drone strikes carried out by the USA. They are increasingly used as an alternative to soldier casualties, and as the CIA owns over 10,000 of them, they aren’t likely to become any less useful. So I’m stocking up on them.

Exo-skeleton technology: if you’ve ever played Halo or Deus Ex, you know what I mean. And it’s happening; the US Pentagon has openly declared that it’s working to create enhanced soldiers. In practice this means the development of exoskeletons by research groups like Lockheed Martin, or DARPA’s Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System, which is being designed to help enhance visual warnings of enemy threats.

And then there are the robots. They’re all over us already; from the Netherlands’ DelFly mini surveillance drone, to the load-bearing AlphaDog, which can carry 180kg of supplies. Clearly robotics has advanced to the point where robots can do the job of human soldiers.

The wars of the future may even not be fought on physical battlefields: countries the world over are developing cyber-warfare approaches that both steal data and cause direct damage to national infrastructures. For example, Iran has been the victim of the Stuxnet worm (2010), which was designed to paralyse centrifuges at its national uranium-enrichment plant, and the Flame computer virus, intended to infect computers in Iran’s oil ministry. You do know I’m risking the security of my bunker by posting this?

But of course the humans will argue that the robots are only as good the humans on the ground who maintain them. Or that enhancing a human isn’t so different from arming a soldier with a better gun, and that at the end of the day it’s still a human doing the job. Others have even bigger qualms, claiming that using drones and robots make it too easy to decide to kill someone; that a robot doesn’t have enough humanity. Nor could a robot act with the judgement required for effective peacekeeping or morale-boosting.

But they’re wrong, I’m not insane. They can make do with soldiers and things like military kit insurance, but I’ve got my bunker and C3PO’s bigger, badder brother. And we’re going to get along just fine.

How will you prepare yourself for the wars of the future? *End of transmission.*

 

Owain enjoys writing in a varity of styles, and particularly enjoys subjects relating to technology and the arts. He writes here for JBI Insurance who supply military insurance.

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