Imagine a future where soldiers can control swarms of drones on the battlefield with their minds through advancements in bioengineering and other fields that allow for a direct brain-to-machine connection. The US military believes this could be possible within the next 30 years.
The military expects the emergence of so-called “cyborg soldiers” by at least the middle of this century with the help of various emerging technologies, including neural implants that could permit direct interaction and data transfer between man and machine.
The US military believes that by 2050 it will be possible to technologically redesign human beings to give warfighters an edge in battle, according to a new study by the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command.
Through “a convergence of biology, engineering and artificial intelligence, we will be able to enhance human beings in a way that changes how they see, hear, think, communicate, and move,” Dr. Peter Emanuel, a researcher with CCDC’s Chemical Biological Center and the lead author of the study, said.
He told Insider that he anticipates medical and societal developments to lead to advancements well beyond what is possible right now in the field of prosthetics and implants such as pacemakers.
The report, “Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DOD,” talks about the possibility of making changes to the human eye for enhanced sensory perception beyond the normal visible spectrum.
Other explored possibilities included physical changes to a soldier’s ears for improved hearing and communication, as well as target tracking through echolocation, and adjustments to a soldier’s muscle control and power for a stronger fighter.
But perhaps one of the most interesting ideas — and something seemingly straight out of science fiction — is the possibility of neural implants that would allow warfighters to control drones, various weapon systems, and other remote-operated machinery with their minds.
“Neural implants for brain-computer interfacing,” the new military report explained, “would allow for seamless interaction between individuals and secondary assets (machines). This control could be exerted upon drones, weapon systems, and other remote systems operated by an enhanced individual.”
There are obviously serious technological hurdles to getting to this point though.
“What we need to be able to do is to bring down the level of data exchange to the the single cell level,” Emanuel told Insider on Monday. “Once you bring it down to the single cell level, you can actually control specific synaptic neuronal data events.
“That would allow for high-bandwidth transfers of data in a bi-directional way.”
He explained that while efforts are currently underway, this technological leap is probably still at least a decade away, if not farther.
The recently-released study conducted by the DoD Biotechnologies for Health and Human Performance Council predicts that special operators, pilots, drone operators, and intelligence personnel could be using neural implants by 2030.
“The potential for direct data exchange between human neural networks and microelectronic systems could revolutionize tactical warfighter communications, speed the transfer of knowledge throughout the chain of command, and ultimately dispel the ‘fog’ of war,” the study explains.
But, Emanuel said in an Army statement, “ultimately, these technologies will go beyond even warfighting. They are going to change how we understand the world and what it means to be human.”