Emerging Technologies and their Impact on Warfare

Technology has evolved the way wars were fought; it has evolved the way people think of war, the very perception of war.

Soldiers with bayonets in their hands, cavalry charges riding horses have been the reality of warfare for centuries. Technology has evolved the way wars were fought; it has evolved the way people think of war, the very perception of war. Technology has changed from hand-operated tanks that were used in WWI to the present day’s more autonomous weapon systems that are challenging the conventional distinction between combatants and non-combatants as well as between machines and soldiers. The military domain is undergoing rapid transformation due to the adoption of artificial intelligence and other technological advances. The use of this technology in military affairs has the capacity to enhance efficiency while also presenting ethical challenges.

The Rise of Emerging Technologies:

Emerging technologies refer to cutting-edge and inventive technologies that are currently developing or have been recently introduced. Some of the new technologies include artificial intelligence, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and others. These technologies have transformed the methods by which military strategies are formulated. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that include automated drones allows for real time data gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) devices that allow for effective and efficient communication on the battlefield. Also, biotechnology, nanotechnology, augmented reality and precision guided hypersonic missiles. All of these are the products of these emerging technologies. These systems, such as sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles, possess the capability to autonomously identify and neutralise possible dangers with a pretty high level of precision. These emerging technologies are spearheading an entirely new  generation of warfare. These instruments have significance in several domains of human existence; however, their adaptable uses also make them potentially perilous and destructive weapons.

The Ethical Dilemma of Autonomous Systems:

One of the world’s most pressing concerns right now is the potential integration of AI into armed systems. The idea of fully autonomous military robots that are programmed to act solely by algorithms and have been fed millions of pieces of data is terrifying. These robots although can make decisions but only about pre fed data and lack the ability to differentiate between combatants and non combatants and also the lack of ability of real time decision making. These concerns have been brought to light in the present debate on China’s possible deployment of robots along its border with India after the Covid-19 .This potential shift towards non-conventional warfare particularly raises questions. The deployment of Sharp Claws and Mule 200s which are fully autonomous robots suggests a new potential concern for the Indian side and mainly its border security.

Potential Risks:

The questions like, What happens when a situation arises that the AI wasn’t programmed for? Or Can a machine truly understand the complexities of war, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants? The distinction between whom to attack and whom not?

Recent Chinese military drills The Golden Dragon 2024 around Taiwan featured robot dogs moving alongside soldiers and raised concerns  globally and alarmed the world about the potential consequences they might have.

3D Printing and Warfare:

3D printing is one of those many emerging technologies which has the potential to disrupt the operations of warfare and the way wars are fought.  This technology has the potential to create a world where countries can just print their own weapons as per their requirements, whatever and whenever they want, from simple firearms to complex drones everything can be printed. 3D printing technology is still in its early stages for military applications. But a concerning precedent was set back in 2016 when  a group of university students did an experiment in which they managed to hack a 3D printer and alter a few lines of code, which caused a drone flight to malfunction and eventually fail. This experiment shows some of the security implications that can accrue from 3D printing of weapons especially their use in wars.

The Rise of Cyber Warfare

As the physical battlefields transition into the high-tech landscapes, there are also new battle lines being drawn in the cyber space. Thus, cyberwarfare is a rising threat as the use of emerging technologies is gradually incorporated into military-related activities. Advancements in AI have presented opportunities for cyber criminals to leverage it and improve the quality and sophistication of their attacks. This scenario creates a basis for an arms race between AI-driven cyber defense and AI-driven attack capabilities that put these two as the main players in the context of cybersecurity development.

Enhancing Military Operations:

The influence of emerging technologies extends beyond the extent of battlefields. Automated and analytical supply chain systems are possible to improve the flow of goods to the troops as they need them. Reconnaissance and surveillance is also another area where drones can be of great help as they give real time information which enhances accuracy and precision. Information technology involves technology such as protected messaging apps and satellite linked on line connectivity that makes it possible for command centers and those in the field to communicate sanely and quickly and to be in a position to make fast decisions. Also, with improved methodologies in the medical field enhanced by AI and robotics, treatments of injuries acquired on the battlefield have been accelerated and given improved results. The very first robotic training system has been established in Guangzhou, China. These technologies not only have negative applications and implications, which are often the most widely discussed, but also have many positive aspects.

The Need for Ethical Frameworks:

The rise of these emerging technologies in warfare have raised crucial questions about the future of warfare. While emerging technologies have increased the efficiency and precision of weaponry, the potential for dehumanization and ethical dilemmas in war are of grave concern and demand immediate attention. The technological advancement worldwide, the autonomous nature of these AI weapons, the ease of access to 3D-printed weaponry, and  all other emerging technologies necessitates the establishment of international regulations and ethical frameworks for regulating such technologies. In this world it has been seen that whenever a new technology comes it through arms race and states power competition has been advacned to such a level where its use means death of humnaity and then states take measures to control them, but to avoid this to happen in domain of emerging technologies its important that regulations and frameworks are made and adopted in time.

Human Oversight and Control

Beside all the automation and advancment the human oversight and control of these technologies is still very important. The ability to differentiate between combatants and civilians, the adherence to international humanitarian law, and the prevention of unintended escalation due to lack of real time decision making all these still remain the critical aspects of war and they require human involvement and capabilities to be controlled. The robots that are produced for the battle field are also the creation of these human minds and there importance cannot be neglected. The future of war is not just about technology but it is also about the choices we make today. So in order to save the future from potential disruptions and destruction it is important to create regulations and ethical boundaries about the use and application of these technologies today to prevent any upcoming destructive situation.

Khola Junaid
Khola Junaid
Khola Junaid is a student of BS-STRATEGIC STUDIES at National Defense University Islamabad, Pakistan.The author is a beginner and passionate researcher with interest in traditional and non traditional security and impact of emerging technologies on world.