Cyborg soldiers are a logical evolutionary link between humans and robots. Yesterdays soldier went into combat alone. Todays soldier is enhanced by human controlled robots. Tommorows soldier will be a soldier cyborg, a cybernetic organism enhanced by everything technology has to offer. The future of combat holds even greater prospects for autonomous robots that kill at their own discretion.

The idea of combining man and machine is nothing new. Ocular cochlear implants have been helping people see and hear for years. Paralytics like Stephen Hawking have been assisted by technology that allows them to speak what they think. Other cases like Prof. Kevin Warwick department of Cybernetics, University of Reading Project Cyborg 1.0, and 2.0 have been documented as well. Artificial Intelligence AI research is exploring organic brains for computing use, that is organic computers that use living neurons as their CPU . Private companies like Digital Angel, Verichip and Applied Digital Solutions are already contracting whole scale human implantation of RFID microchip technology.

Brain Computer Interface and Neural Interfacing is becoming more of a reality in advanced military research. The military implants members of the Special Operations community for GPS tracking and casualty identification purposes. Implants for tracking elderly persons with Alzheimer's, child kidnap victims, and convicted felons are all now commonplace. DARPA is woking on several projects to ready fleets of insect cyborgs and other mammals, monkeys, dogs, even sharks.

Now science is braving a new frontier. Soldiers at Fort Bragg are conducting ongoing tests on Future Force combat systems designed to make the 21st century American cyborg soldier a more effective instrument of war, a veritable cyborg able to communicate with augmented cognition more speedily and efficiently. The U.S. military is funding projects to integrate human with artificial intelligence. Problem: Human brains are superior to computers at visual recognition but inferior at information processing. Solution: human-machine integration. Human component: A soldier or analyst who scans scenes or images. Machine component: Sensors that monitor the brain's activity and relay information about it to commanders or computers. Analytical application: Computers identify images and image areas flagged by the human scan and select those for more thorough scrutiny. Battlefield applications : 1) A prototype helmet already delivers "a visual readout for combat commanders showing the cognitive patterns of individual Soldiers." 2) "Brain pattern and heart rate data from system-equipped soldiers will be transmitted wirelessly to commanders in real-time to improve overall battlefield information management and decision-making." Project buzzwords : "real-time cognitive state assessment," "networked soldiers," "Augmented Cognition," "human-computer warfighting integral." Translation: We're fielding cyborgs. Human Nature's prediction: The next step will be to remove the human component from the battlefield and let machines provide the sensor mobility as well as the information processing.

Ethics: The ethical dilema has been bought and paid for already. A group of ethicists are being paid $250,000 to ask how much we should use nanotechnology to enhance humans. Should we implant future nanotech-enabled computers and actuators into soldiers to make them more effective? If nanochips can help kids do better in school or help locate a kidnapper, are parents obligated to provide them with it? Does it make a difference if these enhancements are implanted, rather than just worn outside the body?

The US Army is experimenting with connecting neuro-physiological sensors to soldiers to assist them in cognition and sensemaking during tense warfare situations:
The augmented cognition system uses neuro-physiological sensors that assess a warfighter's attention by measuring and recording location, brain activity and body responses, including heart rate, and adapting to his preferred learning style.

Using that data, the system will then influence the way the soldier gets information, according to a statement from the Army's Natick Soldier Center in Natick, Mass. The technology will help individual warfighters determine the most important information available and decide the best course of action in varying environments.

"The technology we are developing will ultimately help warfighters when they are faced with information overload, especially under stress, and will significantly improve mission performance," said Henry Girolamo, the Natick Soldier Center's DARPA agent for the Army's Augmented Cognition Program.

Here are some examples of current DARPA 'Human-enhancing' projects:

The 'Brain Interface Program' is the most lavishly funded of nearly all the DARPA bioengineering efforts (the project has been given over $24 million budget). It is aimed at developing ways to 'integrate' soldiers into machines -literally- by wiring them (remotely or directly) to their planes, tanks, or computers. An implantable brain chip has been implemented as well via the integration of stimulus-response signals in the brain via electrodes. The Pentagon hopes to use these 'modified' creatures in mine clearance. DARPA is quoted "The human is becoming the weakest link in defense systems."

Enhancement efforts at the Brain Interface Program are now progressing nicely. The chief of the project, Alan S. Rudolph, now wants to be able to transmit images or sound directly into the brains of soldiers...or prisoners of war.

The ' Metabolic Dominance and Engineered Tissue ' program is aimed at being able to artificially pump up soldier endurance and muscle strength.

The ' Persistence in Combat ' program is a combat self-treatment scheme which will include pain-reducing and blood-stopping devices and techniques soldiers would apply to their own wounds -even moderately severe ones- thereby bypassing the need for a medic and enabling a soldier to keep fighting, despite serious wounds! Pain-obliterating electrodes in the brain activate to nullify pain.

The ' Continuous Assisted Perfomance ' program hopes to find biotechnological ways (implants, metabolic manipulation, etc) to make it possible to push exhausted cyborg soldiers on without loss of performance for up to seven days without sleep.

The above technologies are referred to by DARPA under the subheading of 'neuroengineering.' Now they are looking at micro processing chips that can be implanted beneath the skull and remotely manipulated. Rudolph estimates that a usable chip that could be field-tested soon. Ted Berger of the University of Southern California , envisions pilots who will be able to pilot their planes by thought alone, thanks to brain implants.

Abstract : " Combining man and machine to enhance innate soldier capabilities is the hallmark of a soldier-cyborg transformation. Increasing the man-machine interface in the unpredictable environment of war has enormous potential to change the human dimension of war. This paper discusses the issues of values, ethics, and leadership concerning technologically advanced armed forces as they move warfare into the unfamiliar world of the cyborg."

Conclusion: The immediate future holds some very interesting prospects for cyborg soldiers that remain largely unexamined by the general populace.