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France’s ethical committee of the armed forces ministry has given the army the go-ahead to develop the future technology. It followed a report from the ethics committee which touted the enhancements as essential to combat. US experts have raised fears that China and other enemy nations are ahead of the west in developing enhanced soldiers, and cannot be allowed to dominate the field.
The French ethics committee report considered implanting microchips in soldiers to make them more resilient to pain and stress.
Their report, as seen by the Times, would see soldiers given calming substances from the chips in response to pain, with the devices also intended to “improve cerebral capacity”.
Chips in the soldiers could also allow for location tracking and connectivity with weapons systems.
Also considered by the committee were the development of prosthetics and impacts allowing improved “physical, cognitive, perceptive and psychological capacities”.
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Pills and other drugs are also being devised to make soldiers temporarily resistant to pain stimulus, allowing them to tolerate isolation and other torturous conditions.
At the core of the report was a warning from the committee to France that it needs to maintain “operational superiority of its armed forces in a challenging strategic context”, but still respecting the rules governing the military, humanitarian law and the “fundamental values of our society.”
As a result, the committee ruled out modifications that would affect a soldier’s “humanity” or would impact their judgement in regards to the use of force.
Examples of banned modifications include cognitive impacts impacting a soldier’s free will, or ones that would hinder their reintegration into civilian life after service.
Florence Parly, France’s armed forces minister, has stressed “invasive” bionics and implants were not coming to soldiers any time soon.
But in a press release, she added: “We have to be clear, not everyone has the same scruples as us and we have to prepare ourselves for such a future.”
Ms Parly did add the door is open to any changes in policy over enhancements for soldiers.
The minister said: “It’s an opinion which isn’t set in stone and will be regularly reassessed in the light of future developments.”
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It follows US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe sounding the alarm over China’s advances in military technology.
He wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal calling China under President Xi Jinping the “greatest threat to democracy” and the US.
Mr Ratcliffe added: “US intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities.
“There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.”
The US itself invested millions of dollars into bionics for the armed forces in 2016.
The Pentagon’s research arm, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced at the time they would be working on an implant allowing a human brain to interface directly with computers.
This year DARPA announced an update to the research, with their newest effort ADAPTER exploring cybernetic implants for soldiers.
The implants aim to tackle a soldiers thirst, hunger and sleep with miniature factories producing bacteria for the needs.
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