The stone. The club. The sword. The crossbow. The longbow. The gun. The battleship. The tank. The jet fighter and everything since then.
We’ve seen some amazing and sometimes frightening developments in weapons in the history of warfare.
And if Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is any guide, the speed of technological transformation of weaponry is only going to increase in the future.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 imagines a world where men themselves turn into weapons. Just look at that robot arm that becomes a mini-gun. Or the soldiers whose minds are all linked by chips in their brains. It’s all a little like that other future-shock video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where to survive one must upgrade to Human 2.0.
Yes, those men of 2050 believe they are still soldiers … but just for how long can they pretend to be human with all their assorted technological enhancements? When their bodies start to contain more metal than meat?
Is the destiny of the soldier to become something like John Connor in Terminator Genisys – neither entirely man nor machine but “something else”? Something … more?
I find this subject fascinating because it’s a subject my hero the Spartan confronts in my novels, particularly the sequel. The speed and growth of military technology is changing the face of warfare … and what it means to be a soldier. And, perhaps, what it even means to be a man.
For example, is there honour in war when one can devastate one’s enemies from thousands of kilometres away with drones? With robots tipped to become one of the growth industries of the future (they’re already building driverless cars), how long will it be before actual robots – and not just the SWORDS remote-control armed systems currently in use – enter the battlefield?
My question is: will we lose a little bit of our humanity every time we outsource part of our lives to machines? Will men be able to define themselves through warfare – the warrior being one of the standard archetypes for men for millennia – when robots are doing the fighting and mankind merely the controlling or button-pushing?
Or, perhaps more likely, men – and soldiers – will become part-man, part-machine … part John Connor 2.0. We will be enhanced through nanobots in our bloodstream, bionic limbs on our bodies and chips in our brains that could greatly enhance our memory and cognitive abilities.
The rise of the machines was a topic I reported on during my days at the Sydney Morning Herald. Take a look at my piece Android Apocalypse here.
One quote from Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading in Britain, always stuck with me. We were discussing the pros and cons of being able to “upgrade” one’s mind and body when I asked him about the people who would want to remain totally human, who don’t want to plug into some grand network.
“They’ll be part of some subspecies,” he replied. “It’ll be up to them if they want to be bossed around and be second-rate.”
So there’s the choice … upgrade or become prey to the John Connors of the future.
The looming conflict between the augmented and non-augmented is something for other authors to explore. Yet my hero the Spartan can see how the future is shaping up – and is not happy about it.
Harking back to the military values of the past, he regards the future Augmented Age as a Cowardly Age.
“It was a sorry day when we started using missile weapons to fight our battles instead of hand-to-hand weapons,” he tells his commander, Colonel Garin. “Any coward can fire a gun or push a button.”
To which Colonel Garin replies: “The days of large standing armies duking it out among each other – with or without swords – is over, son. Warfare will be increasingly asymmetrical now. Expect more of this sort of thing.”
So we can expect more future shocks such as soldiers having guns for arms. Or some John Connor Frankenstein-esque amalgam of man and machine.
Whether that’s an exciting or scary prospect is entirely up to you.
My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.