Warfare has drastically changed over the years. This has to be credited to the advancement of technology. The U.S. went from muskets that take two minutes to fire, to AK-47s that can deliver dozens of bullets in seconds. Not only have the weapons changed, but so have the strategies (Kent, 2013). The progression of warfare is continuing to change even faster than it was before. The obvious solution to warfare is to not have it. But, war is inevitable, and the progression of war never stops (Wilson, 2012). To win a war it is going to come down to which country has the most advanced technology. Nuclear war has become a hot topic over the last couple of decades, but with nuclear war, no one really wins in the bigger picture. As crazy as it sounds, we need to prevent nuclear war, with more advanced weaponry.
The biggest underlying question is as follows: What is the future of warfare? There are multiple answers to that question, because people can only forecast what is inevitably going to happen. In today’s modern world, the public has seen the use of robots, artificial intelligence and advanced weapons. These elements will most likely be present in the future, but it is how they are advancing that will be the difference in 20 years and beyond. Some elements of war that we may see in the future are cyber warfare, “super soldiers,” advanced artificial intelligence, virtual reality in military training and PTSD treatment, and drones. The path warfare is taking is beginning to look like something taken directly out of a science fiction movie or a video game. The human race is steadily pushing moral boundaries every year, and it does not look like it will stop (Dugdale-Pointon, 2003).
Imagine fighting a war with ones and zeros instead of physical elements. It could be possible that the only loss to the country is the time wasted defeating the opposition. This could be a possibility in the future with cyber warfare. The definition of cyber warfare: “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation's computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption” (Clarke, 2010, p. 10). Governments all over the world have already invested in hacking and cyber warfare (Breene, 2016). There are certain laws that prohibits it worldwide, but have yet to be widely accepted (Schmitt, 2017). What is going to come in the future may not fully follow laws, because war is the darkest of times in history, and countries will go against all ethics to have the possibility of winning the war or even a slight advantage over the enemy. An example of a modern day cyber warfare would be when Russia began a cyber attack on the Georgian Government to obtain information. There are many elements of war that frighten people, however, out of all the future elements of warfare, cyber warfare should be one of the scariest. We have seen certain types of cyber warfare such as obtaining documents from the department of defense, redirecting people to a page that shows a political message and slowing down computers in a country to the point of being unusable (NATO, 2013). These examples will look like minor acts compared to the future of cyber warfare. Results of a future successful cyber attack could be blackout of electricity in a country or shutting down government funded infrastructures like the financial department (Ranger, 2017). Not only are cyber attacks a threat to a war victory, but cyber warfare will play a huge role in society as well. One possibility is that foreign governments will be able to control big parts of the media like CNN to sway the public on certain topics so that they can control a certain demographic of the public to think one way (Ranger, 2017). As time passes and a society grows, reliance to technology grows as well. This means if a cyber attack was executed, enemies could turn any type of technology against the society. To prevent this, governments have invested a lot of effort, time and money into cyber warfare defense mechanisms (which are softwares that have extensive measures to make sure the enemy's programs have a hard time getting in) (Ranger, 2017). The battleground will be larger and be fought through computers. The winner will be according to which country has the most advanced technology. It is scary to think that cyber warfare can wipe out an entire civilization with a push of a button. Cyber warfare is changing war each year, but is this for the better or worse?
To the public’s knowledge, the U.S. military is the most powerful military, which infers that it has the most top tier technologies that are available on this planet (Bender, 2014). The technology might be there to produce the equipment, but it all comes down to the cost of making it and mass producing it. In the movie, Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne (Batman) gains his armor, a highly-advanced, lightweight, bulletproof suit from the military (Franco, 2005). However, the reason why the military did not use it is because it cost over half of a million dollars to make (Franco, 2005). Even though this is just a movie, the concept still stands. As mentioned recently, the cost limits the ability to make and mass produce highly advanced gadgets. As time progresses, so does technology. With this progress, the availability will expand and cost will lower. This process will make these advanced technological concepts more practical. This is exactly what we are looking at for the future of “super soldiers.” As talked about in the previous paragraph, cyber warfare proves that sometimes it is unreliable to fully depend on technology to fight wars. The technology may even malfunction. To prevent this, a large amount of money and time would have to be spent testing these types of technology to ensure there are not any issues. The testing on this technology will have to be more intense because there are lives directly at stake. By having a “super soldier,” it will be some sort of combination of man and highly advanced technology. This allows the military to have the advantage of technology on their side, with the element of human decision. Some of the features of the “super soldier,” like virtual reality and advanced weaponry, will be touched on in upcoming sections. One of the elements that the probable future withholds is the process of getting lighter, bulletproof gear and more advanced gadgets for the soldiers. This will allow them to have better movement. Another way we forecasted the “super soldiers” to be like in the possible future is to have an exoskeletons and a glasses feature that allows the soldier to access information from them. Some features of the updated, possible future exoskeleton would be enhanced strength, climbing abilities, and a boost in speed to allow the foot soldiers to have the upper-hand. There are versions of this now, but none of them have seen the battlefield because they are not exactly beneficial to mass produce or practical (Marinov, 2016). Another advancement that will be present in the preferred future is the evolution/ advancement of camouflage to be able to be blend into the environment better than (Hambling, 2012). Additionally, there could be bigger and better exoskeletons that a soldier can be placed into, to be able to work the exoskeleton from the inside (Franglen, 2009). “Super soldiers” can be the future of warfare. However, what if we could have “super soldier” that are not human, so there are no casualties? This brings us to the topic of artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is the idea that allows for computer systems to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence. This would include the capability of being able to understand the idea of visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between different languages (Artificial intelligence, n.d.). With robots gaining this kind of intelligence, it creates a gateway to put them on the frontlines next to human soldiers. The robots can complete tasks that are present in the military, potentially replacing humans, but it is important that the human element is not fully eliminated. A great example of this artificial intelligence would be the robot mule. It is a piece of artificial intelligence that could carry gear for soldiers that would normally slow them down on the battlefield. With the artificial intelligence capabilities built into these machines, they can easily maneuver around rocks and divots that may be present (Sammon, 2012). A worry that can come with having big machines like these out in battle is the fact they may be too loud and give away the soldiers’ positions to enemies.
People are often aware of how unexpectedly loud a computer can be. This robot mule imitates a lawn mower even more, which is much more intense than a computer system. This is due to the robot mule’s required hardware run these machines. No matter how much engineers improve computer programs or software, there will always be the chance that something may not go as planned (Seck, 2017). This is the risk that is in play if the military begins relying on artificial intelligence to be helping on the battlefield alongside the human soldiers.
We can look to video games to draw inspiration on artificial intelligence in order to change warfare. In the game Halo, each soldier has an assistant whose voice is projected through their helmets. This assistant is not personified, but each one is unique to the individual. This uniqueness is characterized with different voices, humor, and style of work. There are also examples of this in film. Iron Man has a personal assistant, in the form of a computing system, named J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just a Rather Very Intelligent System). J.A.R.V.I.S. helps Iron Man get everything done in his home and helps him on his missions by providing him with status reports on his suit or searching databases to find secret information (J.A.R.V.I.S., n.d.). J.A.R.V.I.S. gives Iron Man eyes and ears in ways that go beyond human capability. They are a team.
Humans and systems like J.A.R.V.I.S. working together in warfare could be extremely useful. It could provide soldiers with different, safer passages in war zones that humans would not have thought of or been able to spot. It could warn the soldier of incoming enemies miles before they are seen by the human eye.
This could be a costly implementation considering that each soldier would have to be given a suit compatible with this type of system. Basic training would then include sessions on each soldier getting to know their system and building a working relationship together. It would go beyond just working well with the other human soldiers because, in a way, the systems become soldiers too.
Keeping control of this type of artificial intelligence will be an ever-present, high priority. These systems could be a target for cyber warfare, and the results of a successful enemy hack could be damaging. If a particular soldier's J.A.R.V.I.S. was compromised, it could lead to injury or death due to the trust a soldier builds with their system.
With the presence of artificial intelligence in the military, there will be a decline in the need for human soldiers. This is due to programmers being able to use robots to accomplish a task. These robots will be able to complete tasks just as efficient as a human. With this in mind, there will be a decrease in deaths, because there will be less “meat people” soldiers who are at risk while on the battlefield. Based on our forecast, most U.S. soldiers on active duty will be behind a computer making sure everything is going according to plan and changing necessary codes to correct possible mishaps. The human element will still be present, but they may not necessarily have to be there on the battlefield. Soldiers could even be considered active duty while working remotely from their home office. Even when mistakes occur, it will not be putting a human’s life at risk. If anything goes awry, the military will just be able to send in more machines which contain more artificial intelligence capabilities. As technology progresses, there are always those who resist that change, so the idea of machines completely replacing humans in active battlefields will not be acted upon for a long while.
Another upcoming area that will be accessible to the military is the idea of new and advanced weaponry called “smart weapons.” Over time, the military must continue evolving in order to stay one step ahead of the enemies. The idea of “smart weapons” would include auto-targeting, and self-guided bullets (Sanchez, 2016). Both of these ideas have been successfully tested before, but have yet to make their way onto the combat field.
Auto-targeting and self-guided bullets are very similar to each other in the sense that once a target is locked in, the bullet will make its way to the target no matter which direction it may move. According to an article written by Thomas Macaulay (2017), there is a “loop decision cycle that guides terms of engagement in combat” (para. 20). Having the capability of auto-targeting and self-guided bullets will eliminate some of the time it takes to go through the OODA process: observe, orient, decide, and action (Macaulay, 2017). The OODA process is the steps a soldier needs to take in order to make the most ethical decisions in a given situation. This process takes time for a soldier to go through because they need to assess their surroundings and the actions people are taking around them. When applying this idea to the usage of “smart weapons,” specifically auto-targeting and self-guided bullets, the soldiers will be able to take away the risk of possibly hitting one of their own. For example, they will be able to observe, orient, then shoot and direct the bullet to the intended target. After discussing advanced weaponry, we now can look to technology that isn’t technically real life, though it may feel like it to the users.
Virtual reality (VR) could be useful to the military in a way that is not so high-stakes. According to James R. Lint, faculty member at American Military University, VR has already been implemented into basic training. It can simulate battlefield conditions such as vehicles getting hit by IEDs, scanning areas to dictate what defensive positions to use, and medics moving injured soldiers to safe locations for treatment. The idea of using this method is to provide training in situations as if they were happening in real time. It is very low-risk to the soldiers if they make a mistake. It is also less expensive than providing each individual with live ammunition (Lint, 2016).
In addition to all of the situations that were presented above, VR would have to one day include training on the technological threats. There would be a situation in which a soldier’s suit may be compromised, and the user wearing the VR set would have to work through how to handle that in the correct manner. The methods of instruction using VR would be the same, but the scenarios being practiced would have to accommodate for future warfare. The practice situations would include all of the previously mentioned subjects.
Virtual reality has the ability to help soldiers cope with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). According to an article on NBC News written by Simon Parkin, virtual reality has already been used in conjunction with exposure therapy to treat those with PTSD. Exposure therapy is the practice of coaxing the sufferer to relive their trauma until it no longer affects them. Over time, psychiatrists saw a 70 percent remission rate in sixth months (Parkin, 2017). If our forecasts are correct, fewer humans will have to physically fight on battlefields. Would soldiers still live through the same trauma and horror that current soldiers have to face? The disorder and trauma may still be just as impactful, but the triggers would be coming in different forms. Perhaps soldiers would be more triggered by certain kinds of technology. Maybe they get war flashbacks when coming into contact with their home artificial intelligence bot, since they came into contact with an enemy bot. VR simulations would then have to combine battlefields, for the onsite soldier, with more everyday environments in order to reintroduce soldiers to the friendly technology in their lives without having traumatic flashbacks. It is something to keep in mind as our society shifts to become more technological.
If VR could keep soldiers from having to come into physical combat with other soldiers, imagine what drones could do. We currently use drones to drop bombs and other items, and survey areas without the having to have a pilot physically in the device. Many drones today are controlled by a human, much like the mannerisms associated with playing a good video game. These machines are called RPAs, or Remote Piloted Aircrafts. That is our most common drone, yet there may be another option very soon. With technology progressing, we are moving towards artificial intelligence controlled drones. The goal is to design drones to have the ability to make more decisions on their own. Maneuvering different obstacles with the use of sensors, and making target adjustments is the hope for decision-based drones (Osborn, 2017). If drones could make these decisions on their own, then that leaves either more time for soldiers to do other things or less soldiers needing to be deployed. Since these drones are pilotless, it saves many lives of the pilots that risk their lives every time they get in a plane. The concern of people losing their employment would extremely present. Many people have their career in the military, so this may lead to unemployment for those pilots. Also, AI capable drones, how can we ensure they will do the things the country wants. Facebook just had an issue with their AI creating its own language (Novet, 2017). How can we ensure that something like that will not happen with AI drones?
The elements of cyber warfare, “super soldiers”, advanced artificial intelligence, virtual reality in military training and PTSD treatment, and drones may be the future of warfare. Cyber warfare allows for a “safe” battle. There will be no casualties in that war. “Super soldiers” would create opportunity to use the advancement of technology to their advantage, yet still be in control of the decisions it makes. Advanced artificial intelligence can minimize the amount of casualties by being able to put them on the frontlines. Virtual training in military training and PTSD training can be beneficial by allowing soldiers to engage in “real” activity without the risk of mistake, and less of the trauma. Also, virtual reality could help with easing a soldier into the real world. Drones would help minimize casualties and trauma as well. Overall, the future of warfare looks to be an opportunity to save the mental and physical health of our soldiers.