This essay is part of the author's contribution to the NATO Operations 2040 study by the NATO Innovation Hub.
This paper reports on enhancing cognition through the co-evolving developments of (1) genetic engineering and, (2) unawareables (in-the-body processors). Biological approaches for improving intelligence are: (a) gene modification using tools such as CRISPR
through (a) implantable bioengineered devices: (i) brain-machine interface prosthetics, (ii) embedded synthetic DNA constructs and, (iii) neural nanotechnology. Within the next 20 years, increased human intelligence will lead to a distinct demographic, where discrete populations will be benefactors and others will lag behind, creating social tension and geopolitical competition for the best technology as a means for maintaining intelligenceparity with other countries.
Many species exhibit extraordinary abilities in applying know-how, but only humans engage in complex thought that leads to new fields of science, inventions, mathematics, or functional languages under the rubric “software.” Our thought-based behaviors produce useful products and processes, but also solutions to illnesses, injustices and safeguarding national defense. The drive to solve problems coupled with our passion for the humanities has contributed to a thriving and complex civilization, one where a most valued feature centers around “intelligence,” which manifests in a variety of ways, not the least which fuels an exponential rate of technological development. Ironically, as we ascend into the future, technological progress and improved intelligence will coexist in a sympathetic oscillation, each amplifying an ever compounding effect on the other. For centuries nations have recognized that skill and education are highly valued, given their effect on trade and standards of living. The aligned value of intelligence serves to realize this objective, and thus nations will undoubtedly support policies and initiatives directed toward innovation in artificial intelligence, machine intelligence and means to enhanced human brainpower, either through alteration of genes that express for intelligence or via direct connection to the brain, either through physical attached peripherals or anatomically internalized products. Although some of these advances may lag or lead during the course of the next 20 years, sufficient progress will be made in this sector demanding consideration of how to deal with what may prove socially destabilizing developments throughout the world. Understanding the broad outlines of what constitutes the pertinent technology of 2020, helps to put the state of Warfare 2040 into its proper perspective. Thus this paper focuses on co-evolving technological paths related largely to genetic enhancement, neural adjuncts in the form of nanotechnology, and neural interfaces, each of which stands to dramatically impact human intelligence up to and beyond the year 2040.