Supersoldiers & AI generals? Top Space Force scientist says Pentagon must adopt ‘human augmentation’ tech to beat out adversaries

The gradual merger of man and machine is not only inevitable, but “imperative” in the Pentagon’s drive to outdo US adversaries, the Space Force’s top scientist said, hailing a new era of “human augmentation” in military tech.

At an event hosted by the Airforce Research Laboratory (AFRL) on Wednesday, Dr. Joel Mozer, chief scientist for the Space Force, said “superhuman” technologies are on the horizon, insisting  the US “cannot afford to lag in this area.”   

“In the last century, Western civilization transformed from an industrial-based society to an information-based society, but today we’re on the brink of a new age: the age of human augmentation,” he said. “In our business of national defense, it’s imperative that we embrace this new age, lest we fall behind our strategic competitors.”

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Combining man’s ingenuity with “machine efficiency and power and speed” will “create capabilities that are more than human,” Mozer continued, predicting “unimaginable” advances over the next decade. He cited progress in artificial intelligence, pointing to an AI program developed by a Google subsidiary, AlphaGo Zero, which was able to train itself to play the game of Go at a master level in just a few weeks, without using any data from real human matches.

By integrating AI into warplanning, the Pentagon could “develop strategies and tactics that no human could,” Mozer said, suggesting that, eventually, “autonomous” programs could advise commanders in real time.

“This will extend to the battlefield, where commanders and decision makers will have at their disposal multiple autonomous agents, each able to control the execution of things like reconnaissance, or fire control, or attack,” the Space Force scientist went on, though warned that “we must think carefully about the ethics of this, and how we will trust these autonomous agents, especially in an era of lethal autonomous warfare.”

Automated AI has its risks as well, Mozer added, saying that advanced programs can come up with lines of attack so innovative they escape human comprehension, “and that is a little bit scary.”

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Perhaps even more distressing, he urged for an expansion of augmentation tech beyond the military, suggesting it could produce “superhuman workforce,” presumably voluntarily

“Using technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality and nerve stimulation, you could put [an] individual into a state of flow, where learning is optimized and retention is maximized,” he said. “This individual could be shaped into somebody with very high-performing potential.”

Though it sounds like a work of science fiction, Mozer’s vision is fast becoming reality. The Pentagon’s advanced research wing, DARPA, has embarked on numerous projects aiming to augment the human organism in even more radical ways. The agency recently made headlines after it revealed work on a skin implant that can detect dangerous viruses and infections, while its Neural Engineering System Design program seeks to create a neural interface that allows “communication between the brain and the digital world,” one among several brain implant projects.

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