Mehlmann, Lin, Abeny – Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy

We are continuing our look at military human enhancement, with ‘Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy‘ by Maxwell Mehlman, Patrick Lin, and Keith Abney, available here. It is a very wide-ranging about through consideration of pretty much every aspect of military human enhancement for a policy audience.

Here are out thoughts:


This long, detailed report attempts to define key terms and principles in relation to warfighter enhancements in order to create a framework with which to understand military risk, ethics and policy. Unfortunately, I do find many of the authors’ distinctions arbitrary, and certainly problematic in terms of how they choose to define ‘enhancement’ – a word on which much of this report is based.

Another problem for me is that perhaps too little thought is given to the robot in warfare. While I certainly agree that robotics and bio-enhancements are (sort of) aiming towards the same goal, I don’t think the authors quite understand the ethics and implications of the machine when compared with the human. To suggest, as they do in the conclusion, that machines don’t have a sense of ethics (and we must assume, that humans therefore *do*) (86), is for me, to mistake the point, and not to engage with what is in reality quite a complex and detailed debate. I for one certainly don’t ascribe to the authors’ implied sentiment that a human will always be more ethical than a machine. Are human soldiers not ‘machines’ already?

Mike Ryder, Lancaster University


There is no denying that this report is thorough. It seems to cover every possible base. I did, however, often wonder to myself why the authors were dealing with a lot of the points mentioned. Many seemed to be irrelevant, or able to be removed from consideration straight away for a lack of relatability. Perhaps i viewed the report negatively because I did not like the executive summary. It wasn’t a summary. More of a blurb to advertise the report to a potential reader. Still, this is a systematic review of many relevant issues, and definitely worth reading if you are interested in the topic. I just wish it had been executed better.

Joshua Hughes,  Lancaster University 

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