Future of conflict and combat

The New Digital Age

(Book excerpt from The New Digital Age by Schmidt Eric and Cohen Jared)

It’s easy to understand why governments and militaries like robots and other unmanned systems for combat: They never tire, they never feel fear or emotion, they have superhuman capabilities and they always follow orders. As Singer points out, robots are uniquely suited to the roles that the military refers to as the three Ds (jobs that are dull, dirty or dangerous). The tactical advantages conferred by robots are constrained only by the limits of robotics manufacturers. They can build robots that withstand bullets, have perfect aim, recognise and disarm targets, and carry impossible loads in severe conditions of heat, cold or disorientation. Military robots have better endurance and faster reaction time than any soldier, and politicians will much more readily send them into battle than human troops.

An internal congressional report acquired by Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog in 2012 stated that drones now account for 31% of all military aircraft—up from 5 per cent in 2005.

Our perspective

In future, one of the impacts of automation in conflict and warfare will be no loss of human life, but this benefit will be only for the rich and technologically superior nations. Also, by fully automating their battle forces, public resistance to go to war will be lesser and we might see richer, technologically advanced nations bullying their poorer counterparts.

On the other hand, in future, with all public and private services digitised and people transacting their work, life and relationship, the first line of attack in any conflict will be breaking down a country’s digital infrastructure. Any political or ideological disagreement between, within and among the nation states or large corporation may lead one to attack and cripple their digital infrastructure bringing the whole nation or corporation to a halt. On top of it, this could be done discreetly and very swiftly.

Warfare in future will increasingly move from traditional battle ground to cyberspace leading to heavy investment by governments and corporates worldwide in cybersecurity. An interesting statistic reveals that in 2014, Israel which is one of the leading arms exporting country brought in more money through cyber exports($6 billion) than arms sales ($ 5.6 billion)

Gazing through the crystal ball

  1. War and peace is getting comprehensively recrafted due to technology. Wars may become bloodless but no less crippling.
  2. States will have to practice two foreign policies, one virtual and one physical.
  3. Citizens will have more power than before because of connectivity and technology, but there will be potential costs on account of privacy and security. Precautionary thinking and plans against digital theft should be an integral part of living.

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