Dangerous Knowledge? by Gareth Whysall British Army Visiting Scholar
Popular culture portrayals of enhancement provide insight into the reasons for such concerns. The BBC’s Years & Years introduced viewers to a vision of the future of society and its relationship with technology. Ray Kurzweil writes of a future where humans can upload themselves. The Black Mirror series offered a particularly dystopian depiction of soldier enhancements. In its dramatization, enhancement makes killing easier whilst facilitating control of every aspect of the soldier’s life. The Huxleys illustrate the competing visions for an enhanced future. Aldous saw a dystopian future of soma dependency. Julian saw the potential for human transcendence. One person’s tech utopia may well be another’s dystopia. A word of caution: popular depictions tend to amplify the technological possibilities. Those considering an enhanced future should beware the alluring call of the technological siren. Sometimes the technology will develop in the ways anticipated; sometimes it will not. But it will always impact on the way humans live and interact.
In an earlier post I argued that biotechnology needs to be taken seriously as a means of improving human performance. In this post, I outline some of the concerns regarding the issue of soldier enhancement. Addressing these, and other, issues must be a necessary part of discussing whether a military should seek to enhance its personnel. Focusing purely on the technological potential should not blind decision makers to the profound social, ethical and military questions that enhancement raises.
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