The Future of Bioenhanced Super Soldiers, Pt. 1 (Ft. Peter Emanuel and Diane DiEuliis)
Steve Rogers was just an ordinary young man who tried to enlist to fight in World War II but was turned away due to health problems. Until, that is, he was approached by a Defense Department scientist who injected him with a special serum that turned him into the perfect specimen of military strength and stamina: Captain America. When Marvel’s beloved comic book hero was first introduced in 1941, such a biological upgrade was strictly in the realm of fiction. But now, some say it’s the next chapter in warfare, and one that will be here sooner than you might think. The field of biological enhancements for the warfighter encompasses everything from dietary supplements and neural stimulation to bionic limbs and brain augmentation, and it raises a horde of new questions about ethics in the military and society. Increasingly, the dominant questions on the threshold of military technological development are becoming not, what can we do, but what should we do, and what happens if we go too far.
On this episode we’re joined by Dr. Peter Emanuel, U.S. Army Senior Scientist for bioengineering and Dr. Diane DiEuliis, Senior Research fellow at National Defense University. In 2019, they co-authored a paper on the Cyborg Soldier — the result of a Secretary of Defense red team task force exploring the future of man-machine enhancements and the warfighter of 2050.
Mentioned in this episode:
Subscribe to the Left of Boom podcast:
The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:
Hope Hodge Seck 0:00
Welcome back to another episode of Military.com’s flagship podcast, Left of Boom. I’m Hope Seck, managing editor for News and your host on this show. Steve Rogers was just an ordinary young man who tried to enlist to fight in World War II, but was turned away due to health problems. Until, that is, he was approached by a Defense Department scientist who injected him with a special seru, that turned into the perfect specimen of military strength and stamina. That’s right, I’m talking about Captain America. When Marvel’s beloved comic book hero was first introduced in 1941, such a biological upgrade was strictly in the realm of fiction. But now, some say it’s the next chapter in warfare, and one that will be here sooner than you might think. The field of biological enhancements for the warfighter encompasses everything from dietary supplements and neural stimulation to bionic limbs and brain augmentation, and it raises a horde of new questions about ethics. In the military and society, increasingly the dominant questions on the threshold of military technological development are becoming not what can we do, but what should we do? And what happens if we go too far? On this episode, we’re joined by Dr. Peter Emanuel, U.S. Army senior scientist for Bioengineering, and Dr. Diane DiEuliis, senior research fellow at National Defense University. In 2019, they co-authored a paper on the cyborg soldier, the results of a secretary of defense red team task force, exploring the future of man-machine enhancements and the warfighter of 2050. Doctors Emanuel and DiEuliis, welcome to the show.
Peter Emanuel 1:41
Welcome. Thanks for having us.
Diane DiEuliis 1:43
Hope Hodge Seck 1:44
First of all, this paper looks ahead to 2050. That’s only 30 years in the future. And that’s not a lot of time necessarily when it comes to the military. Thirty years ago, in 1990, 5 of our current 11 aircraft carriers had already been in commissioned for decades, all of our current bombers were flying, and the Abrams tank and Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle were driving around just as they are today. But you described some really leap-ahead biological technologies in this paper. What were your foundational assumptions? And what drove your predictions about what’s ahead for individual warfighters in this regard by 2050? Dr. Emanuel, do you want to take this one first?
Peter Emanuel 2:23
Yeah, it’s a great question. And you’re talking about technologies that were in place 30 years ago, and how is it that we, our study shows such a fundamental change and in such a short amount of time. And so technology is accelerating, and we are entering the fourth industrial revolution, this biological revolution. And we’re seeing the convergence of technologies and micro-micro electronics, nano technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation. And so that technology is happening so fast, and that convergence really adds to it but to some extent, we’re we’ve already seen integration of man and machine over many years, the use of defibrillators, of pacemakers to some extent, we’re already really seeing mankind becoming more intimate with technology. Just, case in point, when was the last time you really left the house without your cell phone? So some of our studies show that, you know, some authors that have done some groundbreaking work really actually referred to us as infant cyborgs.
Diane DiEuliis 3:26
Well, that’s a great, that’s a great lead in by Peter, to start this discussion. I think alsom in thinking about this workshop that we wanted to have in this study, we wanted to do, as Peter noted, you know, technologies throughout our lives at this point. And technology has been involved in medicine, and therapeutics for a while. And I think part of what we wanted to do also with this workshop was getting some ground truth actually, you know, what’s hype, what’s real. What can we expect? What’s, you know, potentially, what are we potentially going to see in the real world for the military in this in this timeframe, as opposed to sort of, you know, what you might see in the movies or what you might see in science fiction. We want to get some ground truth. And so and so I think our study did that pretty well.
Peter Emanuel 4:22
So if you if you look at this study Hope what the Department of Defense likes is to know what, what’s coming. The senior leadership hates surprises. And so they’ve got groups of subject matter experts, they assemble and actually, we’re what’s called a red team. In the military, you have a blue team and you have a red team. And the blue team’s job is to make sure that you use technology to really make the job as effective as possible. The red team’s job is to actually think like the enemy or think like the threat, and so our group was specifically assembled. It included scientists, engineers, military and civilian. And they actually asked us, they said, All right, look, we want you to assemble the best minds, we want you to take a year. And we want you to tell us, we know that man and machine is coming together, we see this Cyborg future. But we don’t know what it means. And we know that by the time that technology gets here, if we don’t move now, we’re not going to be ready. So a group of us assembled. And we set out to really address, you know, a couple fundamental questions. And so the study is the output from that effort. We wanted to know where technology was going, really. And we wanted to know what that technology was going to do to the organization itself. And then we wanted to know what to do to prepare for that potential future. And that’s, that’s a lot to really do. And we struggled with how to assemble that and ultimately, we came up with a real interesting strategy. We assembled some study questions. And then we conducted a workshop in which we brought everybody together. And they looked at that 75% solution, and then they ripped it apart. And they commented, and then after that, we pulled together the full study. And so what you’re seeing is really, we did site visits, we did readings, then we had this this colloquium, we brought everybody together. And then that’s the report that you see in front of you. And what it does is it structured things into, the first thing we did is is we wanted to understand what technology might look like. And we’re like, well, there’s so many things, right? We’re like, Alright, look, let’s pick four different scenarios or vignettes, and won’t cover the waterfront, but it’s just something that’s a little different. And we’re like, Well, how do you pick? And so we’re like, Alright, well, how would the military leaders pick what they might adopt and we realize that we based it on capabilities. When you think about a soldier, you think about what they can do, not what the technology is. And so we came up with nine of them. So the most important being situational awareness, what’s going on, strength and speed, number two, imaging insight, being able to perceive what’s out there, communication, our ability to share information, physiology, endurance, sleep, health, control of virtual avatars of technology outside of your body, our attention and memory, learning and finally, sense of smell and olfaction. So, and, and from that we pick four vignettes. And from that all the discussion came.
Hope Hodge Seck 7:37
So I’m so eager to get right into the four major technologies you highlight in this paper. Frankly, reading it made my head explode a little bit. It’s futuristic, kind of like science fiction, but specifically like dark dystopian science fiction, and the first technology that you’ll discuss is ocular enhancements, literally implants in the human eye. That could increase awareness and analysis, Dr. DiEuliis, if we could start with you. Can you tell me about this line of effort and why you chose to highlight it?
Diane DiEuliis 8:07
As Peter said, because we looked at a bunch of capabilities that we thought were going to be areas where warfighters would want to have extended enhancements, of course this is one of them, right? Visual capability is one of them. The thing I find interesting about this vignette, is that, so we talked, we talked about all these cool optogenetic things like real-time interfaces, the ability to see things in different ways and connected technology through the human eye. But one thing I find fascinating about this particular vignette is that we already do enhancements on our eyes, right? And people in the military do as well. So the most simplest basic thing is, we wear glasses and we wear contacts to give ourselves a better visual acuity and then we go a little beyond that. Right, and you can have an operation that fixes the shape of your lens of your eye, if it doesn’t enable you to see with perfect acuity, right? So, we’ve been doing those kinds of things for warfighters already. So it’s just taking it to that next level and giving the application of technology to expand what’s possible in the visual spectrum. So Peter, I don’t know, I don’t know what you think about that, or what you want to add to that one.
Peter Emanuel 9:26
So I remember in the discussion we were having, this was an interesting discussion. Diane’s absolutely right. This one and and, and one of the other vignettes, it really had to deal with the willingness of the individual to adopt this enhancement. And this one’s an interesting one to lead off with because it jumps right into a very meaty issue about whether you would take somebody who had lost their sight and they would be much more willing to say, Look, I’m blind. You can restore any semblance of vision, I’m okay with that. But then we had a very deep ethical conversation about it. What what happens when the technology gets to a point where the ocular enhancement is superior to the vision that I would see? So technologically as we advance, I only see in the visual range. But if if the enhancement allows you to see in multiple spectra and to see a greater with greater acuity, and if somebody were to approach you and say, I have healthy eyes, and yet I want this enhancement, and that’s even in a societal conversation, that’s a very complicated issue. But in a military context, you have to ask yourself, what’s the military’s obligation there? Or if there’s, if there’s a tactical advantage, what are the ethical implications for the DoD taking a young soldier voluntarily, but undergoing this kind of a modification? So it’s not simply just an issue of can you and can’t you? It’s a will you in a won’t you. And should you and shouldn’t you. Leading off with this, this particular vignette brings up a lot of very difficult and sticky issues right out of the gate.
Diane DiEuliis 11:10
That’s spot on, Peter. And the other thing I would say, and starting off with this one, too, is that it brings up questions of you mentioned, sort of the level of invasiveness. Right. So this is something that we talked about, manipulations of the optic nerve itself, as opposed to just putting something in your eye to be able to see better. And so that gets into a very, you know, big question about what level of invasiveness people are willing to do. But then on the other side of it, if you don’t have vision, that is probably something you’d be willing to do. The other issue is, do these enhancements give someone an ability don’t just augment an existing ability, okay, I can see, you know, 20/15 now instead of, you know, 20/50, but it gives someone a capability that they can’t that is not normally, the eye isn’t capable of. Right? So it takes you beyond what you could normally do not just making that better, but making it beyond something that that is just better.
Peter Emanuel 12:09
Our colleague, Jim Giordano actually clarified it this way. In his discussions, he said, If you are injured or you lose function, and then you bring it back with a cyborg, that’s an enhancement of that loss. But if you go beyond the normal baseline, that’s an augmentation.
Diane DiEuliis 12:25
Hope Hodge Seck 12:26
Well put. So since we’re talking about this, I want to skip down the list a little bit and talk about auditory enhancement, which I think also falls into this category. You know, at the baseline, it sounds a little bit like a next-level hearing aid. But then you talk about enhancements that could even pick up what you describe as imagined speech, which sounds like mind reading. Can you talk about that and what it might enable the warfighter to do?
Peter Emanuel 12:52
So what you’re looking at right now is the auditory enhancement isn’t just about restoring your hearing. It’s also not about being able to echolocate, and hear at much greater distance. But in effect, you’re also providing yet another portal for information to flow in. And so I can be consuming multiple lines of communication like an earpiece that is essentially filtering in through that. And so it’s really not, it’s not mind-reading. It’s really just, it’s layering data in a very complex fashion. And the same thing can be said for the visual in that I could theoretically layer on all of my different kinds of information. And then in my mind, just swipe with my hand to the left, like I was on an app, to see. All right, show me all the targets, show me this. Let me listen to all of my fighter aircraft, patch me in over my earpiece, you know, and all of this isn’t with, I’m not pushing buttons to do this, but in my head, I can just move through and be like, Alright, I want you to filter out everything except Dr. Diane DiEuliis. And I want to hear where she is and everything she’s saying And so that, that control over your input and your export, that’s the issue.
Hope Hodge Seck 14:05
I draw all these parallels to sort of like the the Marvel superhero universe in my mind as I’m going through these things. And that holds true of the the third of these four technologies that you highlight. So you’ve got what you call optogenic, body control. And it sounds like essentially a body suit or uniform with an implant element that can make a warfighter outperform their potential basically. So Dr. DiEuliis, what exactly is this? Did I describe it right at all, and how would it work?
Diane DiEuliis 14:37
Sure, you did. And so I see this, again, going back to that capabilities list and how we created these vignettes, I see this vignette stemming out of a lot of technological things we can already do now, given that, you know, we’ve had warfighter trauma, warfighters in combat for a long time now, and we’ve had to do a lot with musculoskeletal repairs, right, of wounded folks. And so this really stems out of a really, really rich body of research on connecting the musculoskeletal system to exoskeletal elements and things like that. So it goes everything from, you know, prosthetics that we want to try and connect to the brain throughout all of that. So really, this is coming from a lot of trauma medicine and expanding into this particular vignette. One thing I like about this one as well is that I think the ability to perform physically, as is sort of proposed throughout this one, but then in an enhanced way, is a very fundamental need of warfighters. And so in that way, I see this one, and Peter, you can you can say what you think about this, But I see this one as a sort of less, should I do it? Or should I not do it? From that perspective, like when we talked about the invasiveness of doing in an ocular enhancement to the eye, I see this one as a little more of, I’d be willing to put on a suit and take this enhancement, and then you know, take off the suit or, you know, however that’s going to develop. So I saw this one as more of a fundamental basic thing that a warfighter with would like to have to be able to better perform physically and then be connected in that way.
Peter Emanuel 16:40
Yeah. So let me add a little bit to Diane’s comments. I agree with everything she just said. So looking at this one, don’t get so caught up in how the bodysuit works. This one’s actually happening right now, as Diane mentioned, has a lot of injured people. And so there’s a there’s DARPA programs right now. And so what they’ve been able to do is to take somebody who’s lost their limb, give them a prosthetic arm and allow them to actually control with their mind, how to operate that and they, they can pick up objects and they can actually even be across the street and and be linked in by Bluetooth and control this arm from afar. And so now obviously, the DARPA programs, they’re far cry from being able to have somebody in a in a Marvel superhero Daredevil costume, flipping around and running at high speed and performing these things. But we’re at the very earliest stages, and it’s the natural evolution of technology. And so what this what our group needs to do, is actually think beyond where we are now where the trends are going, what technology is going to do in 10, 20 and 30 years and so, you know, this is where we are today. And ultimately, we can envision a way that you would you would put on a body suit and be able to restore whole or partial function to very parts of the body. And the natural evolution is is that as you increase the communication between man and machine, you can create much more subtle movements. And ultimately, you could create programs that would make the human body not really even need to know things. So you could put that on, and in the year 2050, and plug in a program like you’re on a holodeck and be like, I want to do a, you know, a ballet routine. And you’ve never done a day of ballet or a gymnastic routine, I want to do a backflip. And if your body is in the right, receptive to it, you punch the button and you do a backflip. And so the possibilities there for being able to train people to do very complex tasks are are really amazing. You can restore functionality to be able to allow somebody who is a paraplegic to be able to potentially walk across the room and cook dinner. So yeah, it’s possible because we’re now seeing that we’re able to communicate between the brain and the human flesh. So as we go from a diode0based TI-86, Texas Instruments calculator to my iPhone, you know, that happened in such a short period of time. And so remember that comment you made at the beginning, Hope, which is, how is it possible that you’re talking only 30 years in the future? Right. And and the reality is, is that the iPhone wasn’t even introduced until the late 2000s. I think it was 2008. And so that’s such a short period of time.
Hope Hodge Seck 19:26
You know, it’s something I actually do hear this batted around in the military a little bit because you’ve got things like longstanding efforts to reduce the combat load of the warfighter, so that you’re not breaking down their bodies, and you’ve got things like physical fitness standards, which are always a hot topic of discussion among my audience. And then you’ve got folks saying, well, we’re going to have these exosuits that are going to do jumps and flips and anything we want them to do. So is this the the horse and wagon? Does this whole line of effort have a shelf life here and it’s really an interesting conversation that I think grabs the interest of younger warfighters especially.
Peter Emanuel 20:04
There’s something just, this is an interesting place to insert a point is that there’s going to be a huge commercial driver for a lot of these technologies. And this one’s a perfect example. The worldwide market for all of these technologies is really going to dwarf the defense application space. Imagine the ability to restore functionality and somebody who’s no no longer mobile, once that technology matures to the point where it’s a viable commercial product, industry is going to flock there with with investment dollars that will dwarf all of the combined military investment projects. Because there’s so much money to be made.
Diane DiEuliis 20:40
Yeah, I agree 100% on that Peter, and the I think on both sides of it, right? There’s going to be commercial interest because people will think this is cool, and want to have it and be able to do things with it. And that, you know, there’s a whole sort of entertainment value to it. Then there’s a whole piece of it that has functioned, like, are people going to use suits like this because they work in warehouses or on loading docks and loading platforms, and it will become like a, you know, a tool that is for, you know, work purposes. Instead of driving one of those big pallet carts, you know, you’ll have the student you’ll be able to just pick up pallets of stuff maybe. And then the third piece of it is, what’s it doing for us in a therapeutic way, like with elderly people with arthritis, for example, is this a mitigation, and enable them to walk and play sports again and do things they want to do? Despite arthritic joints, so there’s a whole, I can see a whole host of applications for this technology in particular, that crosses both commercial entertainment, work applications, labor applications, and DoD applications.
Hope Hodge Seck 21:55
We’ll be right back.
Hi, it’s Hope Seck. interrupting my own podcast, make sure that you’re signed up for Military.com’s free newsletters. We just launched a new one, At Ease, all about military entertainment news. You can also sign up for active duty and veteran newsletters with insider information specific to your service, as well as once focused on crucial topics like finance jobs and pay, go to Military.com and select Login in the upper right hand corner to register for free and get started. All right, back to the show.
Okay, do you want to get to the final case study you bring up, which is, it does kind of intersect with some of the other things you’ve been talking about, direct neural enhancement of the brain. So you’re talking about warfighters controlling not only something like their own wired-in prosthetics, but also objects and machines using their minds. Doctor DiEuliis, what do you envision this technology looking like? And this is something I found particularly interesting, who might be most likely to to get it in the military setting?
Diane DiEuliis 23:00
Wow, that’s a big question. But first, let me just back up and talk about this one vignette in particular, because of all the vignettes that we discussed throughout the study, this is the one that had the most potential as a game-changing kind of technology, not just for defense, but in the face of what our adversaries might be doing and how technology is changing our posture with our adversaries. So the other ones, we could look at those and say, yes, if our adversaries are adopting more physical enhancements, if they’re adopting auditory or other kinds of enhancements, we would see these things growing a pace in our militaries and other countries’ militaries. But this is one where we really need to think about, what are the implications of this because we’re talking about when you’re looking at direct enhancements to the brain, that’s a fundamental change. And the behavior of human beings, right? It fundamentally changes. Go ahead, Peter.
Peter Emanuel 24:05
Maybe we should just describe what it is very quickly. And then I want to jump back to Diane, what we’re talking about is not essentially just placing blunt force electrodes to stimulate neurons. But we’re actually this enhancement is the meeting of a machine and, and nerve endings at a cellular level, which, in effect means that there’s direct communication between one cell and another cell transferring information. And that allows for a high bandwidth transfer in a two way fashion of information between man and machine. And that’s not where we are right now. But we’re studying that and we’re making progress. And once we make that breakthrough, that’s the that’s the revolutionary not evolutionary, but the revolutionary change that alters all of these technologies, really.
Diane DiEuliis 24:55
I was gonna ask you, Peter, her original question talked about who in the military would get this and I thought you’d be better to answer that one than I would. But we did talk about an enhancement and how the DoD would operate, how warfighters would operate together, given that someone could be enhanced, right in this particular way. So how does that work? If there’s a group of individuals, and one of them can receive information directly into the brain on the situational awareness on it, they’re getting data that the other members of that unit are not getting, right. So now there has to be a level of trust there, and how these operators are going to work together because this one person has this, how is that person selected? And do individuals want to have this advancement or not? And so all of those questions were things we discuss at the workshop when we talked about this particular vignette. And then we talked about it in the context of what about our allies, okay, we if we start if at some point 2050 and beyond, you know, we have this kind of capability, our allies going to have that capability, what’s the, how is that information shared between militaries and so forth? Peter, you can probably speak a little bit more to that than I can.
Peter Emanuel 26:15
No, yeah, that’s a good point. I mean, here’s, let’s talk about this one about how it might appear on the battlefield. Because I think it kind of helps. We can talk about all the vignettes. Now let’s just talk about operationalizing the technology. So now in effect, you have one individual who now has access to large amounts of information coming in from visual, from auditory, from satellite imagery that can be directly uploaded inside their organic brain and they’re seeing and interpreting and chewing and being able to make actionable decisions based on information coming in, potentially from a drone flying 20 miles away or a satellite, overhead in space. And so now this person is in effect a command-and-control person on the move. And so, right now the Department of Defense is exploring operations in a multi-domain operation battlespace, and that means that we can expect to be contested in the air, the land the sea, and we want to dominate, we want to essentially be able to control. Now in addition to that we are in a more expeditionary posture, which means that we’re going to be fast-moving units that may be caught off or constrained for periods of time. And so you’re going to have a small battle group moving very fast, maybe what we call on the edge, meaning they may have intermittent loss of communication, they may not always have control of the cyber, they may, and so this now individual becomes a command-and control-system, organic to that expeditionary force, and that’s a game changer. It’s one of the technologies that’s gonna allow us to dominate in a multi-domain battlespace, and it’s one of those technologies that’s going to allow us to be able to enable an expeditionary fast moving force to have to maintain soldier lethality, maximize the protection of the unit, but really be able to operate on their own.
Hope Hodge Seck 28:19
And great potential also to impact I think you really hit at this social dynamics within the military in ways that we may and may not be able to predict. So this has come up in our conversation already, the top candidates for these enhancements may be injured or combat wounded troops who might otherwise be limited or even sidelined by their injuries. Can you talk a little bit more about that prediction in particular, and you know, how it might impact the way the military works socially?
Diane DiEuliis 28:51
Um, well, I’ll start on that one, I think with some of the other things that we’ve talked about, you know, with visual, hearing, musculoskeletal, all kinds of things. You know, I think, in many ways, again, because we’ve got a lot of people who’ve been injured and have been through all kinds of developments in terms of prosthesis, and people see those. You know, we see people with prosthetics all the time. Now, I don’t think they’re unusual in society, given that we’ve been at war for 20 years, and these things are happening. So in some ways, I see that as, again, a natural progression. This fourth one that we were talking about with this intensive data interface with the brain, it’s different in that regard, I think. And so from a societal perspective, I think that’s the one we have to think the most about, again, as Peter said, this is a leap. This takes us to another, another level. Another thing that I think is important to think about here, we talked a little bit about it in the study, which is the huge volumes of data that can be generated by technology interfacing with human beings. So if you’re seeing things in a different way, if you’re hearing things in a different way, or in this in this regard of the brain-machine interface, there can be lots and lots of data generated by that. What do we do with that data? And who owns that data? How is that data handled? If it’s data about other individuals, and what they’re doing, information that we would use in a military sense, but not in a societal sense, if that makes that makes any sense to you? So, you know, if someone has an enhancement, and they’re walking around in society, they are a data generator, they are through the use of that technology. And when that data is used in a military sense, that’s that’s one thing that’s for defense, but how would that be used in a non-military sense.
Hope Hodge Seck 30:50
My husband used to work as a civilian in one of those military issue warehouses aboard Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. So Marines, you have to give back your body armor and your helmets, and turn in your weapons at the armory. You don’t get to keep any of that. But you can’t just give back a bionic arm or a brain implant. So what do you do?
Peter Emanuel 31:10
So, you know, it’s interesting. That’s great, Hope, good point. We started out to talk about where technology might be in the year 2050. And we quickly got ourselves into a lot of very interesting conversations that we didn’t expect, and the one you bring up right there is one so obviously, the the augmentation that you’re going to get when in civilian life is going to be tremendously different than the augmentation you’re likely to get when you’re in the Department of Defense. And that capability may not necessarily allow be suitable for integration back into society. And so now you have, you have this situation where we have somebody separating from military service and returning and reintegrating back into society which we want, not only you have the question of, did you sign a contract that allows you to be downgraded in speed or strength and things of that nature. But, you know, clearly we’re going to take the weapons off, if that’s something that was done. So that’s a difficult thing. But also, we were also concerned even before that as to, now we have this integration for the first time of enhanced individuals that are operating at a performance above me. And now there is one person in a military unit, and and he’s just a super, or she can see and do these things that none of the other people can. So what does that do to unit cohesion? Or what does that do? What if that person is so, so impactful and useful, that they’re like, Look, we can’t promote you because you’re just so crucial. You knew when you were augmented that we needed you in the front lines, and that person is like, I don’t want to be in a forward position anymore. And so really, the first questions that the DoD has to answer that many other agencies might not is, how do we integrate these these technologies into our population? How does that augmented population then integrate into the overall general force. And then how did those people then separate and reintegrate into the society at large? And so some of the conversations were very obvious, like I told you, but then we started to have some questions like, what if they’re like, No, I don’t want to, I want my brain interface. It’s inside my head. And then that person five years later goes to the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and wants to go into the blackjack area. “I’m sorry, sir.” Talk about card counting. They, you know, yeah. I mean, how does that work? Last time I went to buy a car, they’re like, I don’t know, I need to go back in ro the manager and see if that offer will work. And he comes back. He’s like my manager said, and he’s like, I heard everything your manager said. How do you do that?
Diane DiEuliis 33:46
Yeah, I think Peter, that’s, that’s right. And while you were talking, I was also thinking about when you were saying if there’s somebody in a unit that’s got the brain machine interface enhancements, think about the level of trust that goes goes along with that, right? Because we know we’re using technology every day on a daily basis, you know, so so I’ve got my cell phone here, and I want to figure out how to go somewhere, or I want to look at what’s the traffic between here and there? And how long is it going to take me and all that kind of stuff. But this is still an excellent piece of technology, right? I can look at this. And I can, I can determine how much I trust this thing’s ability to get me where I need to go and to tell me what the world is like out there when I go there. Now imagine if it’s someone, a person who’s providing that information to me because they’re receiving that information in their brain and conveying it to the rest of a military unit, imagine the level of trust that has to happen in that context. It’s not an excellent piece of, of technology that I look at the information and I decide for myself. It’s essentially a person who is absorbing the information and then telling me and telling the unit, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s where we’re going to go, here’s how it’s going to happen. And it’s all happening inside that person’s brain. So it’s a different way of that those other people are relying on technology that’s being filtered through a human being at this point. So it’s a very, it’s okay, as Peter said, we can’t say, you know, enough, it’s a game-changer. It really is a game-changer. And now put that in the context of, we’re working with another country’s military, same thing. So they’re getting information and technology that’s filtered through our enhanced people. And they have to trust that and what does that look like?
Peter Emanuel 35:39
So I wanna I want to actually piggyback on something Diane saying this word trust. So one of the firt what really started this whole study was an argument that we had.
Diane DiEuliis 35:49
That argument that you and I had? How unusual!
Peter Emanuel 35:53
It was a conversation.
Diane DiEuliis 35:56
And it was fun. Funny, I’m sure.
Peter Emanuel 35:58
the problem was, is that the conversation that Diane and I had escalated to a whole room talking about at the time a Chinese researcher had genetically altered the embryo of an individual, which is an ethical red line. And there would also have been a previous study out of China, that they had increased the muscle mass of a dog to make a super dog and, and there was a general line of discussion about the fact that some countries had ethical boundaries that the United States was unwilling to cross. And then we realized that we didn’t really know whether it was the state-sponsored idea or whether it was just individuals. And and then we asked ourselves, well, what, what is the willingness of a Western country or an Eastern country to adopt a cyborg? So we started to look out there and we found one study inside only the United States that actually tackled that, it was by the Pew Research Institute, and we actually asked, we went and we visited Cary Funk and she ran that study and they interviewed, like 4,726 individuals. And they asked her like, what do you think about technology? And how scared are you? And are you excited. And ultimately, what they found was is that the majority of them were wary of these breakthroughs. And they were concerned about where these things were going. And that that concern was tracked to some extent with their awareness of the technology. And the more they knew about it, the less likely they were to be concerned, and also tracked with their religious affiliations. And the more religious people were, the more they tended to have ethical boundaries. And and I think Diane talked about our interoperability with our NATO allies. And so from a military standpoint, if we if we adopt an enhancement, but our NATO allies refused to allow us to be interoperable with them, to move our troops through their areas, then that was something that the Department of Defense needs to be concerned with. And the likely conversation and I don’t suggest that we go down this lane today, I think it’s a whole conversation that you might want to pursue in and of itself is, how do you have a society in which some people are operating at a higher level all the time? And what is that imbalance in performance due to the dynamic between the two populations? And so, if you look historically, in the past, anytime there’s been an imbalance in performance that’s created resentment. And the best place to go for that we realized was media, movies, literature, music, poetry, and when you look there, oftentimes these Cyborg technologies are perceived in a dystopian manner. There’s a fear, there’s a feeling that when you integrate man and machine together, there’s a loss of soul and compassion, and that that leads to inadvertent technological consequences. Frankenstein, the Terminator was the way we talked about it. And so if we’re going to be interoperable with our NATO allies, if we’re going to adopt these technologies, we have to realize that the society has to be accepting of these technologies. It can’t be something that the Department of Defense does on its own in a vacuum, irrespective of what society is willing to accept, and what the global community at large will perceive of that endeavor.
Hope Hodge Seck 36:14
Hmm, that’s profound. And I think that’s as strong a note as any to end on. Dr. DiEuliis, do you have any parting thoughts as well?
Diane DiEuliis 39:36
No, I think Peter really summed it up nicely. This is this has been a pleasure talking about this. It’s been a great conversation.
Hope Hodge Seck 39:43
It has I am fascinated and frightened at the same time. So thank you both so much for your insights.
Peter Emanuel 39:50
Thanks for having us.
Diane DiEuliis 39:51
Hope Hodge Seck 39:56
Thanks for joining us on another episode of Left of Boom. this topic of bio enhancements and the implications of Cyborg soldiers on the way we fight is so interesting that I’m planning to devote an upcoming episode just to the ethical implications and concerns with warfighting in this field. Make sure that you’re subscribed to the podcast so you don’t miss that episode when it drops. And while you’re doing that, please leave us a review and tell us what you think of the show. The paper we talked about today is available online. Just enter Cyborg soldier 2050 in your search engine to find it. The other authors on the paper were Scott Walper, Natalie Klein, James B. Petro, and James Giordano. What other frightening futuristic or inspiring military issues do you want us to talk about? And who would you like to hear from next? Send me an email at podcast at Military.com to let me know. And remember to check out all the news affecting the military community every day at Military.com.
© Copyright 2020 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.