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Will Enhanced Soldiers Fight a Just War?

Revision Military’s prototype TALOS suit has a powered lower-body exoskeleton supporting a body armour system that can protect 60% of the body from rifle rounds. To relieve weight, motorised actuators pick up each leg and move them. The weight of the helmet, armour and vest is supported by a rigid articulated spine. The suit’s power pack has a cooling fan, and a cooling vest pumps water through 3 metres of tubing under the suit. Credit: Revision Military

Revision Military’s prototype TALOS suit has a powered lower-body exoskeleton supporting a body armour system that can protect 60% of the body from rifle rounds. To relieve weight, motorised actuators pick up each leg and move them. The weight of the helmet, armour and vest is supported by a rigid articulated spine. The suit’s power pack has a cooling fan, and a cooling vest pumps water through 3 metres of tubing under the suit. Credit: Revision Military

By Adam Henschke

Technologies may be able to enhance a soldier’s strength, endurance, stress tolerance and cognitive ability, but could they reduce their moral capacity to follow the laws of armed conflict?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

As combinations of nano-, bio-, info- and cognitive technologies converge and combine, humanity is increasing its capacity to actively change and direct our physical nature. In contrast to evolution by natural selection, human enhancement involves the use of technological interventions to shape us as individuals in ways that we have selected.

The military context is one area where such technological enhancements are being extensively researched. The guiding thought is that technologically enhanced soldiers can increase a military force’s chances of winning.

While wars are fought to be won, the tradition of a “just” war has applied moral principles to determine when and how war should be fought. These moral principles can both guide and complicate what technological interventions can be used to enhance soldiers during wartime.

This article focuses on ethical issues around research and the impacts of enhancement during conflict. The particular worry is that enhancements could impact on the behaviour of soldiers during conflict in ways that are morally relevant. The article will frame the moral discussions by reference to the tradition of a just war, specifically the discrimination and proportionality criteria that look at how one can fight a war justly.

Enhancements include exoskeletons to augment strength and endurance, “metabolic dominance”...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.