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IEET > Security > Military > Life > Enablement > Vision > Futurism > Fellows > Patrick Lin

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More Than Human? The Ethics of Biologically Enhancing Soldiers

Patrick Lin
By Patrick Lin
The Atlantic

Posted: Mar 28, 2012

Our ability to “upgrade” the bodies of soldiers through drugs, implants, and exoskeletons may be upending the ethical norms of war as we’ve understood them.

If we can engineer a soldier who can resist torture, would it still be wrong to torture this person with the usual methods? Starvation and sleep deprivation won’t affect a super-soldier who doesn’t need to sleep or eat. Beatings and electric shocks won’t break someone who can’t feel pain or fear like we do. This isn’t a comic-book story, but plausible scenarios based on actual military projects today.

In the next generation, our warfighters may be able to eat grass, communicate telepathically, resist stress, climb walls like a lizard, and much more.

Impossible? We only need to look at nature for proofs of concept. For instance, dolphins don’t sleep (or they’d drown); Alaskan sled-dogs can run for days without rest or food; bats navigate with echolocation; and goats will eat pretty much anything. Find out how they work, and maybe we can replicate that in humans.

As you might expect, there are serious moral and legal risks to consider on this path.

To read the rest of the article click HERE

Dr. Patrick Lin is an IEET fellow, as well as an associate philosophy professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and director of its Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group. He was previously an ethics fellow at the US Naval Academy and a post-doctoral associate at Dartmouth College.
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An already large percentage of soldiers are returning with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many soldiers are unable to re-integrate into society and end up homeless or alone. If we enhance them further, will that not make re-integration of warfighters even more difficult?

There is also the question of who owns the enhancements. If the government owns the enhancements of the warfighters that could mean that they were forbidden in other use, or that they would have to be removed or neutralized at the end of the warfighter’s service.
As traumatic as being turned into something other would be, the trauma would be doubled when you had to be turned back.

I think the use of robots will be here and be more viable ethically before the technology to enhance humans. The first units in combat will work like the Avatar movie character; with a human brain at the remote control. Eventually in the next 20 to 30 years they will have fully autonomous electronic brains. Then the whole concept of modern warfare becomes obsolete as its really just a question of who can build the most destructive robot, and repair it the quickest. When humans no longer suffer any consequence to war, the whole dianamic of ethics changes. My crystal ball is too cloudy to see boyond that horizon.

Yes, DARPA does have a “Project Avatar”:

According the agency, “the Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.”

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