I have warned constantly that it is not AI, robotics, or even bio-tech developments alone that will determine the future of war, but the combination of all three things into one deadly whole that will create a new face of warfare just as how it was mechanical improvement and process-industrial innovations that lead to the mass production of deadly firearms that defined World War I and how it was massive improvements in mathematics and molecular science that lead to the atom bomb in World War II.
The case of World War III will involve the combination of AI, robotic, and bio-tech innovations that will eventually manifest into a new soldier itself. The kind of solider that I speak of is that which the 1984 film Terminator warned about, which is the cyborg, a robot (robotics) that runs on its own brain able to make “independent decisions” (AI) and which is covered by a living tissue that grows on the metal and interacts in symbiosis with it, allowing the robot to bleed, sweat, and contract diseases in so far as it effects the tissue but not the actual robotic interior (bio-tech).
The cyborg is the dream of all militaries because it is the perfect soldier. It is able to easily infiltrate any human environment, it massively stronger than humans, can process faster than a human, is more skilled than a human, cannot be abused to the point of mental breakdown, does not need to rest, does not need to eat, does not need a day off, is able to be severely abused and overused, and when it is done discarded with no consequences. The cyborg has the potential to make the conventional “soldier” in most applications something as obsolete as is the pointed stick to the sword, or the horse to the automobile.
Now the US military is speaking of implementing cyborgs for service, but defines this as the opposite- a human being who has been “mechanically enhanced” through the use of robotics and computers in that there is a machine covering a person rather than a pseudo-person covering a machine:
The U.S. Army believes that a range of technologies could be available by 2050 that would effectively turn the average soldier into a cybernetically enhanced super soldier. A recent Department of Defense study predicted that enhanced vision, enhanced hearing, musculature control, and what amounts to telepathy would all become possible within 30 years, given the current pace of technological development.
The report, Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DOD, gives a hint of what the Department of Defense forecasts for soldiers in the next 30 years. The U.S. Army’s Mad Scientist Blog highlights the executive summary. The report highlighted four specific technologies:
Currently U.S. soldiers use bulky, relatively heavy night vision goggles to see in the dark. One possibility is the development of contact lenses with the same capability, perhaps even with a digital zoom that uses augmented reality to project critical data (enemy and friendly positions, routes, etc.) onto the wearer’s field of view.
A restorative suit could rejuvenate tired muscles, refreshing physically tired soldiers faster.
Hearing is critical on the battlefield, and currently soldiers wear noise-cancelling ear protection to screen out the din of weapons. The ear protection is relatively bulky though, and a much smaller, compact headset would be very useful.
Telepathy between human soldiers would be revolutionary, as the paper writes, allowing soldiers to instantly share information across the battlefield without the use of communications devices.
Technological feasibility may not be the only issue that determines when and how soldiers receive such gear. Super sight, super muscles, super hearing, and telepathy could have profound implications on the broader society, implications that could slow down or speed up the military’s adoption. Telepathy, the holy grail of interpersonal communications for centuries, also will probably not come cheap, initially restricting its use to special operations forces. (source)
The reality is that both forms of cyborgs- the one presented in Terminator and the one spoken of by the military here -will likely be implemented. The soldier itself will never be “abolished”, but just as the craftsman gave way to the “machine operator”, so will the soldier of today give way to the machines alongside a smaller cadre of “advanced soldiers” who are humans with mechanical and robotic appendages added. Think something along the lines of “Iron Man” from film and comic acclaim.
In the year 1900, one still saw horses and cars on the streets of any major city. Thirty years later, this was no longer so.
When people look back upon the past, just as many reminisce about “those days”, the fact is that people will do the same with technology, calling the days of smartphones and even dial-up Internet “simpler times”, and the rate of progress, barring any major events will look something like what happened in the past, as the future of technology is the implementation of robotics into daily life and the gradual “robotization” of human beings.
However, one should not forget that robots are machines. While efficient, machines can be hacked, seized, broken, as well as pose other hazards, and considering that people want to physically integrate man with machines, thereby allowing a machine theoretical access to a man’s own mind, one might consider if we are looking as a physical means by which a third party could “connect” to a man’s mind to influence his thoughts or manipulate his own biological processes to as to cause spiritual consequences. As the story notes the militaries of the world- it is not just the US -want to be able to have soldiers use computers integrated to their brains so to “telepathically” send messages, then it will not be used just to “defend the nation”, but to send thoughts, marketing campaigns, and outright propaganda straight into people’s heads with or without their choice.
The warning of the Terminator film series, as well as the premise of the Matrix series too, was that in the name of “defense” and power, the machines that some men made in order to control other men ended up turning against them and hurting them. As the future comes into vision and “science fiction” becomes “science fact”, it appears that what these stories warned about was not something born of a man’s imagination, but a possible reality based on the fallen nature of man and his desire for power coupled with the potential for chaos that he could cause with tools so advanced as robotics and her accompanying technological advances.