March 28, 2012

Early exoskeletons and biological soldier enhancements will not change the battlefield more than other weapon systems

Patrick Lin discusses the ethical impact of new biological and exoskeleton enhancements to soldiers.

Soldiers will soon be able to crawl up and down walls like a real life Gecko or the fictional Spider;postID=9032631527705685216man. They will have the technology to stick and unstick with hands and feet to walls. This was also shown in the most recent Mission Impossible movie. However, to utilize this capability still requires extreme physical fitness.

Now a soldier would have to use ropes and ladders. There are lightweight and portable systems.

There are also powered climbing systems like the Atlas Ascender. This capability has been exagerrated in the fictional Batman movie "Batman Begins".

There is also a DARPA program to enable Crystalline Cellulose Conversion to Glucose (C3G). This would be used to convert grass and other plants in to biofuel. In theory it also might allow a soldier to eat grass.

Previously we had looked at another DARPA program where a persons metabolism would be altered the way a sled dog alters its metabolism. This would enable usage of stored fat. In theory a soldier could overeat and have extra body fat then flip the metabolism to fat burning and not have to eat for a couple of months. They would flip the metabolism back to normal later. I think the advantages of such capabilities are only for a few commando situations. The far greater impact would be to enable a new approach to combat obesity.

I think the early exoskeletons will only have marginal military impact. The system would have more military impact if it works well enough for the soldier to carry a far heavier gun that currently required a squad to move and operate. Even then we do have planes and tanks.

Heavier and better personal armor will just mean that there will be an arms race to use more powerful guns.

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