Electronic Soldier

Parallel to technical developments military units in the modern age are first designed as clock mechanism, then as energetic machine and at present as network. This military self-images attribute themselves to the age of mechanical machines, to the age of industrial modernity and now to the age of information. (Ill. 2)

Coupled with those attributions is the design of particular soldierly subject, of specific types of warriors: the clock mechanism composed of human bodies and firearms based on the mechanically drilled soldier. On a soldier drilled as an only physically conditioned little wheel to execute precise movements. (Ill. 3)

The technical fight-construction of energetic machines dominating the battlefields of the industrial wars created as its most profiled type the model of the steel figure. Thus a soldier built to couple the hot warrior guided by instinct with the cool and objective worker. A soldier characterized by the steel helmet and the grey uniform.

Following this logic - that aims to line up the military totality and the soldierly figure - at present are made efforts, chiefly in the US-army, to give the foot soldier a new figure. (Ill. 4)

The new soldier - mostly called electronic soldier - has the insignia of the age of information: in his rucksack is to be found a wearable computer; by his transmitter and antenna he is constantly linked to a W-LAN that covers the whole battlefield; the weapon may be upgraded with a large number of optotronical components like camcorders or infra-red binoculars; GPS and other features are completing the armour.

And indeed the electronic soldier is to see as a figure at the front of the informed society. This is - as I like to show in the following - reflected in four aspects.

With the electronic soldier an epistemic change in the thinking of the war is translated to the plan of the infantryman.

Since the middle of the nineties the guiding intellectual forces of the advisers and staffs in the Pentagon are cultivating a rhetoric that is preaching the parting from the industrial society, from its technologies, its ways of organisation, its forms of conflict and in the end its mentalities. Central point of reference are the works of the futurologist Alvin Toffler.

»Third Wave« is the metaphor of Toffler that is used by him to describe am epoch-making transformation bringing about a change of civilization similar to the passage from agrarian society to industrial revolution. Translated in the military sector Toffler's prediction is declined on different plans.

The first plan deals with the sector of armament technology. Information age means to see military fighting strength not so much as an effect of weapons so destructive as possible but as a result of a superior information and communication technology in combination with »smart« weapons:

Away from heavy tanks, heavy artillery, aircraft carriers, bombers and similar things, to concept of the »small and many« of »intelligent« ammunition, precision weapons and small units operating in a mobile manner and by networks.

With the information age are also coupled the procedures of a net-economy operating on the basis of information-technological networking with lean production, precise logistics, modular forms of organization and task-orientated cooperation.

These forms of network-like organizations have to be translated in warfare, and by this the classical hierarchically structured military apparatus organized in big units is removed.

Finally is said that in the information age one has to do with quite different forms of conflict. Up to now military thinking, its doctrines and its procedures focussed on enemies that in principle made war in the same way and operated in mirror-image to the own organization.

But the geo-strategic faults of the information age are creating quite different enemies. Enemies that in their form of organization and in their way of operation differ radically from the own image. War and enemy are no longer to understand with traditional categories and calculations.

Figures of thinking that deal with theories of complexity enter the theory of war: as a non-linear phenomenon war is to be seen as a field of fundamental uncertainty, that is not to keep under control with the present routines and standardized procedures;

co-evolution and self-organization prove to be a central metaphor expressing the demand for more flexible, decentralized forms of organization, new doctrines, other structures of leadership and command, and generally changed mentalities.

Thus, the discourse about the information age is a prelude of a rhetoric pointing the way forward that is mobilizing for a radical change. Just on this background the electronic soldier is situated. As a translation of this change he is not to be seen as a technological innovation within the scope of usual developments but as the innovation of a new type of soldier.

In technological view the electronic soldier is the front-figure of the information age. With the armour of the soldier are spelled out on a military level three expectations concerning the most profiled fields of research in wearable computing and nano-technology. (Ill. 5)

Wearable computing is promising an increased »context sensitivity«, an increased ability of the perception of the environment. It is promising to extend in principle the sensory-physiological horizon of the soldier.

What up to now could only achieve the sense of the soldier - for example the sense for poison gas, the position of the enemy and similar things, that distinguished the model of the steel figure - is precisely and technologically represented. Thus, sensors integrated in the battle dress are made to detect automatically environments contaminated by chemical, atomic or biological means, and to give warnings.

Also the sense of the enemy, of hidden or nightly movements becomes obsolete by technological visualization with the help of devices that detect the radiation of heat or light.
(Ill. 6)

Beyond this wearable computing is promising new types of information services coming into being by the fusion of the visible world with a virtual word. So is born an »augmented reality«. Whereas the industrialized battlefield for the infantryman was characterized by its emptiness, the electronic soldier is supposed to have before his eyes a virtually augmented combat zone.

A see-through display gives him information directly on the optical field, for example the us-and-them situation or information about the range, targets or restricted areas.
(Ill. 7)

Finally, so the combined promise of nano- and information-technological armament, the technological components will carry out independent operations. The system is supposed to be provided with the ability of autonomous and provocative proceeding. The position of the soldier is automatically detected, appropriate reports are sent.

The battle dress is made to control constantly the bodily function (pulse rate, body temperature) and to report possible irregularities. The nano-technological future of the electronic soldier knows even further components:

Armament programs are talking of textiles that as outside skeleton are supporting the muscle activity, are regulating the temperature, are detecting the loss of blood, are contracting automatically and build a bandage, and that make out the environment in order to adapt themselves to it in colour, like a chameleon.

Characteristic is the projective, future-oriented character of the settings. Though originally already to be seen in 1999 as a prototype, until today there is no version 1.0 of the »Land-Warrior« ready to go into production, the American variation of the »electronic soldier«.

The »electronic soldier« seems to be at the same time a project in the sense of project-making and a concrete scientific-technological project. In any case, in this double sense he is linked to the topos of the Cyborg.

Originally brought into play in the context of space research, the at first bio-technologically thought armament was supposed to make the human body fit for a life in space. As hostile to life as the space are also the combat zones. Once again for this is designed an integral man-machine-compound that points to a radical change of human abilities.

In the context of such options Vilem Flusser spoke of an anthropological transformation, of an anthropological passage »from subject to project«. To manage this passage is, with the electronic soldier, spelled out as a military task. (Ill. 8)

In cultural view the electronic soldier is a figure at the front of the information age. He is through and through a product of the Military-Entertainment-Complex actually under construction. Already its figure benefits from the preparatory work of the entertainments industry: as Robocop the figure is known since 1987, as Universal Soldier since 1992.

Although Hollywood is often in advance in the matters of microchip implants and biogenetic machine symbiosis, in military publications the screen heroes do often appear as inspiring reference.

The shining example of the entertainments industry is one aspect of the Military-Entertainment-Complex, but beyond this the training of the infantrymen is based on the technologies of the game industry. (Ill. 9) As electronic soldier also the infantryman is trained in a similar way as the pilot or tank forces in simulation programs of operational missions.

Whereas the 3-D-simulation via Head-Mounted-Displays in the sixties was a purely military project, a study of the Pentagon in 1997 is stating that the game industry was superior to the military projects - as well regarding the graphic and acoustic quality as the development of scenarios and the modelling of characters.

Consequently the marines adapted the computer game Doom II for their own purposes. In 2002 the army put on the market a game named Ego-Shooter that was adjusted to commercial games and was supposed to serve as instrument of recruiting.

And finally the Institute for Creative technologies founded with the financial help of the army created with Full Spectrum Warrior a video game - at the same time a product for the market and a medium for the training of the infantry.

Warrior-skills are acquired at the game board. Data circulating in the net - whether in the form of pictures, as iconographic representation, signal or text somewhere published - has to be uploaded, recognized and interpreted. That's just what you are learning at the game board: abilities of perception as required by war in our times. (Ill. 10)

But beyond this the games do not only put on the learning of technological abilities, but on the anticipation of emotionally provocative situations in the war. The producers are modelling stories close to reality - for instance incidents in Peacekeeping Missions or fights against the guerrilla in the cities.

Large screens installed into windows or into pulled down walls are giving a look on Arabic city structures through which are slipping hostile fighters. Even simulated shots are whipping through the room. The training at the simulator becomes a mixture of Hollywood and thematic park.

By this is created a sensory-physiological hyper-realism that is supposed to make uncertain the difference between real war and war as a game, not only for the planner at his desk but also in the mission itself.

The training is not primarily oriented at standard situations for which are trained routine ways of reaction but at exemplary situations of the asymmetric war. Clamped between humanitarian aid, peacekeeping mission and fight against guerrilla or terror the soldier is moving in an uncertain, liquid environment.

Flexible, creative and independent decision-making is trained. The situation may require to switch like a flash from understanding among nations to fight against an enemy. This is valid as well for the ability to switch on the display from the foreign language support to the report about hostile activities as for the inner views.

Hyperrealistic simulations work on both abilities, on the paradox to be peacemaker and soldier in one person. In such a way the electronic soldier is designed as the soldierly type of the postmodern gambler, as extreme variation of flexible postmodern subject. (Ill. 11)

Also in his form of socialization the electronic soldier is a figure at the front of the information society. Given that once the mechanical compound granted the coherence of the whole military body, so now it is supposed to be guaranteed by a information-technological network.

Constantly online the electronic soldier is operating a figure of a network community. This network - so the military objectives - is on the one hand based on a universal monitoring and on the other on deeply anchored common doctrines and convictions.

Monitoring means that the network is concretely consisting of a nearly in real time actualized Common Operation Picture linked to all of us. Of course this picture of the situation has many plans; they reach from the overview in cartographic form to recordings of the position of single soldiers within a platoon in the field of view of the soldiers.

The picture of the situation works as specific mode of control. The picture is the data pool from which the infantryman gets his Information. The participation in global information is supposed to increase the tactical flexibility so that the electronic soldier gets more autonomy.

By the Common Operation Picture the electronic soldier is put in position to refer his own situation on the global situation and his own activity on the activity of the others. Autonomous, bottom-up controlled adjustment is supposed to cover up the relative slow hierarchy of the chain of command.

Where until now dominated the centrally planned and controlled synchronization of the operating forces, the military objectives are nowadays of self-synchronization.

Moreover the monitoring is promising a convergence of individual and global decision-making. By the means of the Common Operation Picture each soldier is acting as is own observer seeing his activities represented on the screen. And he is always acting under the observation of the others that are in the same situation. They see themselves and the movements of the others represented.

Thus in the net is installed a permanent control room in which each and every is observed by himself and by the others. The mechanical compound that held together the military body in the 18th century in a visible form passed into a medial cohesion based on Augmented Reality.

Military theorists of networking join to this the hope that from the permanent and dynamic interplay of forces is resulting an emergent form of the commando: (Ill. 12): »Unlocking the full power of the network also involves our ability to affect the nature of the decisions that are inherently made by the network, or made collectively, rather than being made by an individual.«

Socializing visions of the internet culture are translated in a new mode of the military Command-and-Control: self-organization and collective principles are supposed to replace step by step hierarchy and command.

Though, and this is also stressed out by the military networking theory, in the same extent in which the formal-hierarchic structure gets lost, is arising the necessity of deeper emotional and normative forms of cohesion.

Thus the individualized type of soldier has to swear to a collective of kindred spirits. Just as intended with the model of the steel figure the electronic soldier has to swear to a community of warriors.

The formation of the electronic soldier does not only include the development of technological abilities and the anchoring of common doctrines and estimations of situations in the simulation training. Moreover is also aimed at his ethical formation, at the anchoring of unanimous values.

So it's no surprise that the US-army has elaborated for the new type of soldier a real creed, a »Warrior-Ethos«: (Video 13) »I am an American Soldier - I will always place the mission first - I will never accept defeat - I will never quit - I will never leave a fallen comrade - I am an American Soldier - I live by this creed.«

The sense of this creed is to let disappear troops specific and hierarchic formations of identity behind a general canon of norms and values that contributes to found the excepted identity. Each step in formation and training the soldier makes is accompanied by the Warrior-Doctrines.

Networking warriors, so the programmers of the electronic soldier learned from their new antagonists, achieve the greatest success by creating cohesion not only through technological networking but by the means of common convictions, doctrines and ideologema.

The electronic soldier too is living on the imitation of the enemy.
(Translation by Ronald Voullié)