In at least one area, our adversaries are ahead: enhancing human performance by modifying the body and brain itself. “Now our adversaries quite frankly are pursuing enhanced human operations and it scares the crap out of us, really,” Work said. “We’re going to have to have a big, big decision on whether we’re comfortable going that way.” So far, the US military has focused on better equipment for the human — heads-up displays, wearable electronics, better body armor, maybe even exoskeletons — rather than upgrading the human being him- or herself.
Even when adversaries pursue the same technologies as we do, their values mean they may pursue them very differently. “China’s investing heavily in robotics and autonomy, and the Russian chief of General Staff, [Valeriy] Gerasimov, recently said that the Russian military is preparing to fight on the roboticized battlefield, and he said, I quote, ‘in the near future it is possible a fully robotized unit will be created capable of independently conducting military operations.'”
The idea of roving Russian robo-tanks is the stuff of sci-fi nightmares. In the US military, “we believe strongly that humans should be the only ones to decide when to use lethal force,” Work emphasized. “[But] authoritarian regimes who believe people are weaknesses in the machine…. they will naturally gravitate towards totally automated solutions,” Work said. “Why do I know that? Because that’s exactly the way the Soviets [conceived] their recon-strike complex; it was going to be completely automated.”