Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Reinforcing the human body 1

In the previous article, we saw a potential need for super soldiers to fight in high intensity conflicts and replace baseline humans, who may not be physically or psychologically capable of dealing with such stresses. Some discussion was given to the adaptations that humans could benefit from in future conflicts, at such a time when genetic engineering proves to be viable. There are two different approachs to this, which involve somatic and germline engineering. The former can be made to adults, while the latter can only be made to embryos. Thus, either approach has a problem inherent to it. While somatic engineering doesn't have a time delay, it can only make limited changes to an adult subject. Germline engineering can change every aspect of the unborn subjects physiology, but it takes 18 years before they can grow to adulthood! When the time for this discussion comes, different nations will take different stances on it. Some will find germline engineering to be ethically challenging, while others nations could care less about the moral implications. Another question would be whether the possibilitys of germline engineering are too extensive, beyond what is needed for a super soldier. Without a firm understanding of the possibilitys and limits of less radical approachs, this viewpoint would hold a dominant frame. Therefore, the rest of this article will deal with exploring the realm of somatic engineering.

Minimalist approach

One of the biggest detriments to unit performance is the pareto principle, a phenomenon whereby 20% of the men contribute 80% of the combat results. This has to do with the psychometric profiles of individual soldiers: Some personality types are inherently more aggressive and daring than others. They are responsible for a disproportionate number of results within the unit. The assumption of every man being equal is a common one, but it couldn't be more wrong. Hollywood war movies which depict every soldier being an active participant in a battle are highly unrealistic: In practise, most of the men will be hiding behind cover, or fiddling with equipment and trying to look busy. Anything to help alleviate the intense stress that comes with people trying to murder each other in hot blood. The average soldier can march just fine during a movement to contact, but once ordered to partake in an actual attack (where they are exposed to weapons fire), getting them up and moving is a formidable challenge. Sometimes, the men cannot even be relied upon to provide covering fire for the few brave soldiers in the platoon who decide to go on the attack.

The 80/20 phenomenon results in a wasteful employment of personnel, which is most prevalent amongst infantry (particularly over the course of long campaigns). Since the soldiers who take all the risks inevitably wind up KIA given enough time, the unit is eventually left only with the average men who are not capable of serious action. Because of the rarity of such aggressive and daring soldiers, it is simply not possible to allocate them in all the places they are needed: Many posts must be filled with ordinary men instead. Jim storr elaborated upon this concept in his book, with figures drawn from the second world war. In the western desert, the top 15 fighter pilots in the luftwaffe (from a total of over 200) accounted for 44% of all allied aircraft destroyed, which is an average of over 44 kills for each pilot. There was a similar (but less pronounced) trend among american submarine captains, with 8.5% of the boats scoring 39% of the kills. This brings up an interesting question: What if all the men within a unit could be aces? Would its combat effectiveness as a whole dramatically increase?

Its a tantalising possibility that could be realised with somatic engineering. Studys show that certain genes, such as MAOA and TPH1, can influence an individuals level of aggression and risk adversity. Mutations in these genes could very well be responsible for the daring men who win most of the units battles. If true, then militarys may decide that it would be highly beneficial for their troops to undergo therapy, so that they could all benefit from increased performance. And even that is only scratching the surface of possibilitys. In metal gear solid, a major plot point is the existence of 'soldier genes', which regulate certain abilitys relevant to combat performance. For instance, one set of genes might govern strategic thinking, while another set might be responsible for the killer instinct. Although these individual genes were widespread amongst the human population, what was unique was that all of them were found in the genome of one man, the greatest warrior of the 21st century: Big boss. This gave him the full range of abilitys needed to thrive as a soldier.

Metal gear solid: Briefing files

There are many different ways that an ordinary soldiers performance can be increased without necessarily making them superhuman. For example, they can be given a battery of injections which would grant them enhanced reflexes, learning abilitys, and working memory. (This would be especially important for officers and NCOs, enabling them to control subordinate units like the fingers on their hand) Soldiers can also become more resistant to mental trauma stress, pain, and sleep deprivation. For instance, the hDEC2 gene results in people feeling energized on just 4-5 hours of sleep every night. If such changes were made to an armys personnel, the benefits could be tremendous: When normal human limitations are bypassed, the nature of the military instrument itself is transformed. Without the restraints and risks imposed by traumatised, exhausted, and stressed team mates, the organisation as a whole becomes more effective in all aspects. At a minimum, they would be able to avoid burnout after four days of mobile warfare.
These are basic enhancements that can be made available to all members of a military hierarchy, for support troops as well as combat personnel. But for those employed in the most dangerous branch of all (the poor bloody infantry), something more will be desired. Given the rigors of their job, they might require alterations such as denser bones and stronger muscles. The former can be unlocked by tampering with the LRP5 gene, while the latter can be achieved by manipulating the NCOR1 and MSTN gene. This would allow them to carry great weights with ease, scale treacherous landscapes, and remain uninjured by falls or collisions. Foot mobile infantry could regain a place in the army, rather than being the butt of so many bad jokes. Super soldiers wouldn't need to abide by the risk adverse policys that were adopted after WW1, in order to prevent themselves being bled white. They could take on daring missions without relying on the support of other branchs, which would lead to a more independent infantry force.

* More provocatively, some men can even be made colour blind, allowing them to more easily spot camouflage and prevent their comrades from walking into an ambush.

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