Concern Growing Over Russia and China's 'Enhanced Human Operations'

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Concern Growing Over Russia and China's 'Enhanced Human Operations'

Super Soldiers

During a recent press event, a representative from the US Defense Department suggested that the country may be compelled to develop what he called 'enhanced human operations' as part of the Third Offset Strategy aimed at maintaining technological superiority. Robert O. Work put forward that other nations would not be impeded by ethics in the development of 'super soldiers.'

At a recent press conference the US Defense Department's future research and development strategy was outlined by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work. During the meeting he warned that America would soon lose its military competitive advantage if it does not pursue technologies like artificial intelligence. The 'Third Offset Strategy,' aims to reassert America's military technological edge globally. He also suggested that other nations are working on so-called 'super-soldiers' through "enhanced human operations."

"Now our adversaries, quite frankly, are pursuing enhanced human operations, and it scares the crap out of us," Work said.

Bob Work
Robert O. Work
The ethical concerns surrounding enhancing human performance are wide and complex. Work says those ethical concerns typically don't apply to authoritarian governments like Russia's or China's, but their lack of hesitation in pushing this development may force America's hand.

"Our adversaries, quite frankly, are pursuing enhanced human operations, and it scares the crap out of us."
"We're going to have to have a big, big decision on whether we're comfortable going that way," Work admits.

The Pentagon was not specific on the transhumanist work being done by Russia and China, but several possibilities can be inferred.

“In this environment there will be a lot of fast followers; I’m okay with that as long as we’re a fast leader,” Work said. “If people are chasing our exhaust, that’s okay with me.”

DARPA and the Pentagon have been developing exoskeleton technology for many years. One example is a light exoskeleton suit called TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit). The goal of the program is to put the final suit into full operation by August 2018

Work pointed out the example of the advanced helmet on the F-35 joint strike fighter, which fuses data from multiple systems into one layout for the pilot.

Tapping into a Soldier's Brain

DARPA has also studied whales and dolphins because they don't need to sleep in long spans like humans do for inspiration to create a soldier who requires little to no sleep for extended operations. It's not known if DAPRA scientists made any progress with this work yet, but they did explore powerful anti-sleep drugs like Modafinil.

“The theme that came out over and over again was what we call human-machine collaboration and combat teaming,” Work said. “AI and autonomy will allow entirely new levels of man-machine symbiosis, letting each do what they do best.”

Under a program called the Brain-Machine Interface, DARPA's Defense Sciences Office is investigating how brain implants improve a soldier's cognitive ability.

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While the early development work in animal models by researchers like Ted Berger and others has been promising, replicating the research in humans, is just beginning.  Such work may eventually lead to faster training of soldiers or even direct brain control of robots and other assets in a theater of operations. The program also explored the possibility of enabling soldiers to communicate with each other by thought alone.

Brain implants that trigger specific thought patterns or even instructions might be available in the future.

Will the US Pursue Enhanced Human Operations?

According to Work, the US technology advantage is not likely to last long. With the revolution in artificial intelligence and robotics is being driven by the commercial sector, and with global distribution of software, it’s entirely possible for almost any nation or non-state actor to exploit the same technologies rapidly. Moreover, Work suggests that such actors' 'flexible ethics' may allow them to exploit technologies others may be hesitant to pursue.

"Nothing can match the destructive potential of high-end war between great powers," Work said, and while cooperation with Russia and China is the goal, "we want to make sure we can ensure our national leaders that we are ready in case someone makes a miscalculation."

In the US, studies are already well underway in developing transhumanist technology. During his talk, Work was careful to differentiate between the US and others in terms of enhanced human operations, but how long will this separation be maintained?

SOURCES  Popular Mechanics Breaking Defense

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