Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy


California Polytechnic State University and Case Western Reserve University have recently released a report prepared for the Greenwall Foundation entitled, Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy. The report investigates investments made by the United States military “that would enhance the ability of warfighters to complete their missions safely and effectively. Driven by neuroscience, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, and other emerging technologies, this research includes combating sleep deprivation, improving cognitive performance, increasing strength, reducing muscle fatigue, and other enhancements to the human body and mind.”

The authors of the report consider the operational, ethical, and legal implications of enhancing warfighters and seek to initiate a discussion on these issues “before novel technologies fully arrive on the scene and in the theater of war.” As such, various aspects of these new technologies for warfighters are examined, including:

  • The definition of human enhancement
  • Controversies
  • Laws and policies
  • Bioethics
  • Risks and benefits
  • Military necessity for enhancement
  • Autonomy of soldiers
  • Broader impacts

The report acknowledges that in “changing human biology with enhancements, we also may be changing the assumptions behind existing laws of war and even human ethics.” As a result, the authors maintain that these controversial topics “need to be actively engaged, ideally in advance of or in parallel with rapidly emerging science and technologies.”

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/s_4698