The augmented soldier will come true

The augmented soldier will come true

#augmented #soldier #true

The first cyborg mouse is American and can see in the dark. In 2019, a team from the University of Arizona announced that they had injected nanoparticles into the eyes of several rodents that “convert” (invisible) infrared light to visible green light.

Attached to photoreceptor cells in the eyes, these nanoparticles enabled the mice to see in the dark while maintaining their normal vision. Next step: the development of organic nanoparticles compatible with the physiology of the human eye.

This impressive innovation perfectly illustrates the type of research currently being carried out by laboratories serving the military. In recent decades they have developed equipment that seems to be taken from Hollywood blockbusters: vibrating belts to communicate silently, a vision system through walls, exoskeletons, lattices capable of treating injuries, etc. However, in the midst of this technological debauchery, a weak point remains: the human being, too fragile and too slow. The objective is, therefore, to stimulate the physical and cognitive faculties of the fighter.

There is nothing really new here. This search began on a large scale at the beginning of World War II. Germany administered pervitin, or “Göring’s pill”, to its pilots and tankers. It encouraged their vigilance and endurance, and made them forget about hunger and sleep. As for the Americans and British, they handed out handfuls of small tablets of benzedrine, a homemade amphetamine. Today, for long missions in the field, American soldiers can still obtain medically backed “stimulant pills.” If the French army intends for its part to give only caffeine pills to its pilots, it tested in 1991, on a thousand soldiers, modafinil, a psychostimulant against sleep devoid of the addictive risk of amphetamines.

But these drugs only temporarily mask the inherent weaknesses of human physiology. From now on, we want to teach the body to react differently. A US Army medical research institute has invented an electric heating band to wear on the forearm. The tests were conclusive: in a room cooled to 0°C, it gave users 50% more dexterity and 90% more finger strength. This little technology warms the peripheral blood and inhibits the normal tendency of the blood vessels in the hands to shrink at low temperatures.

A “trick” that is far from what is already working in some foreign armies, Russian or Chinese in particular, such as eye operations aimed at increasing visual acuity. In her speech on the topic “Ethics and Augmented Soldier” in December 2020 during the Digital Defense Innovation Forum, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, was categorical: “The so-called invasive developments are not on the agenda of the French armies. But we have to be lucid… it is a future we have to prepare for. The nanoparticles tested on mice would respect the ethical limit set by the minister: the process is reversible since they are eliminated spontaneously after about ten weeks. However, this French position is marginal on the world stage, and the Chinese and the Russians do not have these doubts. According to US intelligence, they would develop gene therapies that would increase or inhibit the production of certain hormones to obtain more combative soldiers, stronger, resistant to cold, pain, stress and hunger. In October 2017, during a speech, President Vladimir Putin thus announced the arrival of a “genetically modified” soldier, who “will be able to fight without fear, without compassion, without regret or pain”.

Six technologies in the boxes

brain chip

On August 28, 2020, Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, unveiled a chip developed by his Neuralink start-up. Intended to be implanted in the brain, it must initially treat neurological diseases. But Elon Musk plans to use it to connect to a computer via bluetooth or to control machines. The chip could help develop direct brain-to-brain communication.

A screen in a contact lens

The Californian start-up Mojo Vision has developed an augmented reality contact lens. Its 70,000-pixel mini-display is translucent, so users can see various information in their normal field of vision. The soldier could thus see his enemies appear in a different color.

muscle implant

A network of chips implanted throughout the body could directly stimulate nerves through pulses of light. The muscles would be automatically controlled by an artificial intelligence that would improve the soldiers’ performance and avoid dangers, such as enemy fire.

wrist monitor

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed an electronic skin designed to deform with the elasticity of the skin. This patch, made up of a thin layer of plastic a few microns thick, is water soluble and is applied to the skin like a decal. Equipped with sensors, it monitors the physiological constants of the user; electrocardiogram, electroencephalogram, temperature, etc. that transmits to the control center. This electronic skin will have antennas, even mini solar cells, that can be included in the patch.


For a long time there has been talk of nanorobots that could be introduced into the human body to heal it from within; they finally exist. Developed in 2020, they are about 40×50 microns, 5 microns thick (a hair is 75 microns in diameter), and equipped with four legs and actuators. They can be controlled and used as microsurgical instruments, for example to heal a wound.

DNA modification

Gene therapy would modify a soldier’s DNA to optimize their mind in combat. His brain could thus stimulate the production of endorphins, to reduce pain. An excess of adrenaline would prepare the body for combat. Conversely, the brain could also decrease the production of oxytocin, the hormone of empathy, to increase its aggressiveness.

> On the borders of the humanat the Musée de l’Homme, in Paris, until May 30, 2022. An evocation of the transformations that our body could undergo.

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