Forget The Bionic Man, and don’t be worrying about anthrax. The future of warfare is evolutionary, and it’s a lot closer than you’d think – if, indeed, it hasn’t already begun:
The most realistic future biomods apocalypse is one in which a hostile foreign government or terror group finds ways to subtly change a lot of people. “The worst-case scenario is people could start doing things that wouldn’t be recognized,” Herr says. “At least you can do something about if if you know it’s happening.”
But that’s hardly the only approach currently underway; the term, “biomods”, involves exactly what the truncation implies: biological modification, using neurochemical enhancements derived from pharmacological and genetic manipulation – along with neurological manipulation – to produce the next generation of troops. Biologically enhanced, or mutant – however one wishes to categorize them – the new version is anticipated to exhibit enhanced cognitive and teamwork skills, together with somewhat superhuman physical attributes.
While mechanical and computational implants presently remain a future possibility (though progress in machine-mediated visual augmentation and auditory processing has been made), biological enhancements are now well within the realm of application.
The military could select troops and their officers for their unique, inborn ability to cope with stress. Or it could directly tweak a soldier’s body functions — re-balancing the normal hormonal cocktail so the soldier doesn’t panic, doesn’t retreat and keeps on fighting, even when the odds are against him and any normal person would just give up.
Natural selection, however, is time-consuming, tricky, and occasionally messy. Why bother with that when you have the ability to biologically modify every recruit? And what, exactly, is to stop it from happening?
Americans, especially, tend to have deep reservations about changing people’s biology, Herr points out. That doesn’t mean they won’t do it. He points out increasing acceptance of cognitive-enhancing drugs among American college students. “Seventy to 80 percent of upperclassman have at least once taken these drugs illegally to get better grades,” he says. “If the younger generation in our country is more comfortable with this, then that would make the use of these kinds of things in society, and by extension the military, very different.”
Moreover, the exigencies dictated by confirmation from American and allied intelligence communities that other countries are already advancing such technologies likely would serve as impetus for acceleration of similar programs and attendant research into both agonistic and defensive implementations. The latter approach would appear to carry a low probability of success; it seems more likely that efforts to enhance military personnel would gain priority.
After all, the “worst-case scenario” as decribed above is exceptionally unlikely at present; it is much more likely that hostile agents would target particular individuals for biomod at first, introducing alteration of biochemical makeup by stealth, then, by suggestion, influencing behavior.
Is it possible, for example, to accomplish this in such a way as to direct the target to – for example – to engage in mass murder, and subsequently commit suicide? What reactions can be observed in the host country following repeated successes? If such a series of events could be orchestrated in the United States, might the populace be persuaded to voluntarily relinquish their weapons?
Assuming that such a scenario could occur, and assuming that the hypothetical enemy country had advanced not only in military weaponry, but in biological enhancement of their troops even as the USA has reduced military strength and fallen behind in the race toward biomodification, it becomes relevant to consider the likely outcome of any subsequent confrontation.
At present, Western attitudes regarding biological modification are generally negative; overwhelmingly so in the European Union and to a somewhat lesser degree in the USA – especially where GMO foods are concerned. It seems reasonable to extrapolate from that aversion to a more generalized aversion toward human biomodification in western nations, but scant evidence exists to support such aversion in other countries. Moreover, as western nations have arguably become increasingly wary of technology in the face of “man-made” global warming and other environmental causes, other nations are investing in energy and technology even as they call upon western nations to divest themselves.
It sems prudent to suggest that they aren’t doing so in order to help us.