In its third season, the British sci-fi thriller series Black Mirror aired an episode which explored the future of military warfare. In the episode, soldiers of a military organization are aided by a neural implant which enhances their senses and allows them to hunt their enemies more easily. The episode explores an interesting premise and leads one to ask the following question: What is the future of warfare?
On Thursday, March 16, 2017, the Trump administration released its 2018 budget proposal. The budget, in short, denoted mass budget cuts to all government agencies excluding the military and homeland security. What does this mean for the future of warfare? Since the introduction of the internet, cyber warfare has been on the rise. In response to this growing threat, the United States’ military created Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). According to their mission statement, USCYBERCOM “plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks; and prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries” (Friedman & Singer 133). In short, USCYBERCOM works with all components of the United States military in order to address cyber threats. In their book Cybersecurity and Cyber Warfare, Friedman and Singer cite, “CYBERCOM is growing rapidly in both size and perceived importance inside the US military” (134). As expressed within the text, the goal of of USCYBERCOM is to ensure that United States is more advanced than its potential adversaries: “Whatever the Chinese can do to us, we can do better” (Friedman & Singer 136).
(Incidentally, this is a sentiment shared by the Chinese, according to Col. Li Minghai of the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University. He wrote, “In the 21st century, seizing control of cyberspace is of decisive significance, like seizing control of the sea in the 19th century, and seizing control of the air in the 20th century” (Gertz 2016) but I digress.)
The 2018 proposed budget plan focuses on increasing the United States’ offensive and defensive power. A nearly $3 billion budget increase for homeland security would be dedicated to border security technology and infrastructure. An increased emphasis on cybersecurity alludes to a future in which warfare consists of incoming physical threats accompanied by cyber threats. High-tech warfare appears imminent and as fantastical and futuristic as military usage of neural implants seems, maybe it is only a matter of time before they become a reality.