Human Enhancement Military. What are experiments in the military? 5 methods, ranging from drugs to exoskeletons and brain-computer interfaces.

To start, when I think about human enhancement in the military the image of movies like Edge of Tomorrow come to mind (picture above).

Enhancing soldiers

What role does the military apparatus play in research into and application of improvement technology? And vice versa: What consequences can human enhancement have on warfare?

I expect the army to be at the forefront of this, along with top-level sport. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, performing their duties requires enormous physical and cognitive pressure. Secondly, the military apparatus, especially in powers such as the United States and China, has an extraordinary amount of financial resources.


Because of the interests in warfare, after all it is about life and death, I believe there is an incentive to go further in testing improvement technology to make the soldiers even better equipped for their work.

A couple of examples on research in the military:

  • Modfinil;
  • Exoskeletons;
  • Genetic modification;
  • Brain-computer interfacing;
  • Targeting decisions;

More information about these projects:


The US Army uses modafinil to investigate whether it can help soldiers and pilots stay focused for longer missions [link at the bottom]. From a historical context this is not that strange. The book Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich is worth considering if you are interested in historical examples.


Sarcos’ exoskeleton provides support for lifting material up to 90 pounds. The U.S. Navy and Delta Air Lines test Sarcos prototypes. The Dutch navy uses light version exoskeletons to help employees in warehouses lifting heavy things.

Genetic modification

DARPA is the research and development component of the US military. Together with the Innovative Genomics Institute, DARPA is investigating the possibilities with genetic modification to make its soldiers more resistant to radioactive radiation [link at the bottom].

Brain-computer interfacing

Under the N3 program, which stands for Next Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology, DARPA is investigating whether they can use non-invasive BCI for driving vehicles and weapons. BCI stands for brain-computer interfacing [link at the bottom].

Targeting decisions

Researchers from the University of Delft investigate the use of advanced systems to enhance military personnel in targeting decisions [link at the bottom]. They examine how moral and legal objectives can best be implemented within the design and development of military command and control systems, and investigate how current and emerging combat systems and targeting technologies are challenging our understanding and interpretation of Just War Theory and the Laws of Armed Conflict.

First destruction, later growth

Naval Ravikant is one of the most fascinating entrepreneurs and thinkers about our technological future. In an interview with Rob Reid in the podcast After On, he shared a historical analogy that stuck with me [link at the bottom]. This point is an excellent example of the relation between the military and human enhancement.

Here can you listen to the whole episode:

Ravikant argues that we as humanity are bad at using new technology wisely and responsibly. “It is in our nature to first use technology for bad causes. Only later do we learn that we can also use the technology in a positive way. “

A few examples he cites:

  • Gunpowder. First for cannons and guns, only then for steam engines;
  • Atomic fission. First for the atomic bomb, only then for nuclear energy;
  • Social media. Dependency and addiction first, later hopefully more connection.

I realize that his argument is not completely watertight. Let alone that those developments have occurred so successively. But somewhere I do remember that we, as mostly because of financial interests and power, do not always use technology for the collective good from the start. Another reason is that we first want to be sure that it is safe enough and that we have included it in legislation and regulations.

Soldiers first?

To continue that conclusion, does the same apply to human enhancement technology? Perhaps it is first deployed by the army, criminals and terrorists, causing more harm to society and the world than it does good.

Only then, as humanity, have we learned from it, do we make new legislation to prevent excesses. Is that the moment that we all become stronger, smarter and more social on average, plus that we live longer?

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Reading list

I wrote these related articles about human enhancement:

These are external links that I used, subdivided by theme.


  • Article about modafinil testing by the US military
  • Article about exoskeletons Army
  • Article about CRISPR / cas9 by the army
  • Article about N3 program
  • Website about targeting decisions

First destruction

Do you have examples of the use or research on human enhancement by the military? Leave a comment!