double-edged technology?

Tonight we will analyze how new technologies are transforming armed conflict. If during the Great War, whose truce we celebrated yesterday, explosive shells, mustard gas and airships represented the cutting edge of innovation, then what are the great innovations of our time?

War is now fought more remotely, with killer drones or autonomous weapons. Now it seems that the body of a soldier is preserved behind the technology, but can this high-tech weapon be turned against him?

We will also question the ethical boundaries surrounding the use of these new methods.

To talk about it, we get:

Herve Granjean, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Armed Forces

Amelie Ferey, political scientist, IFRI researcher, lecturer at Saint-Cyr Coetquidan and Sciences Po.

Thierry Berthierlecturer and junior researcher at CREC Saint-Cyr, co-leader of the “Security – Artificial Intelligence” group of the France IA National Center

And in the second part, Virginia Tournaysociologist and writer, member of the “Red Team”

Difficult reconciliation between ethics and technological innovation

In December 2020, Secretary of the Armed Forces Florence Parly set a clear limit on the increase in the armed forces, abandoning so-called “invasive” methods, in particular pharmacological ones, in favor of technological innovations. And progress in this area seems significant:

We already have night vision binoculars, we can work on lenses that allow us to see better at night. We are working on radars that can see through walls and determine if there is a person on the other side of the wall (…). We are also working on protection methods with a striped mesh that adapts to ambient light to be as discreet as possible. Herve Granjean, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Armed Forces

While a Defense Ethics Committee was created in France in early 2020, responsible for issuing opinions on the acceptability of technological innovations in the military, some military powers around the world are not worried about such restrictions:

If we put ourselves on the side of China, ethics are more important than performance. Anything that is effective on a tactical and operational level will be ethical. On the Russian side, we are on the same wavelength, and on the American side, we are moving towards this, even if there was some reluctance at first. Thierry Berthier, lecturer and junior researcher at CREC Saint-Cyr

Towards a new era of war?

If a new war doctrine emerged in the 1980s that favored technology over human resources (RMA), some observers believe that we have recently entered a new phase of warfare. This new doctrine is characterized by the predominant place occupied by artificial intelligence and the extensive connection between man and machine, which can lead to some new problems:

The more technology we have in our armies, the more data we have to manage, and the more problems we have with the cognitive overload of soldiers who have to manage all that data on the battlefield. The question is, how can we ensure that technology truly becomes a team player that can be in synergy with operators? Amélie Ferey, political scientist and IFRI researcher

With the development of artificial intelligence, new threats have appeared, such as “swarm” drone attacks, i.e. simultaneous charge of several thousand armed drones on the target. These attacks, undertaken by informal forces in particular, left most of the armies in a difficult position. Another major threat to armies today is the possibility of their connected machines being hacked:

In the context of the conflict, this is part of the armament. Large armies, such as the American or Russian ones, are now capable of electromagnetically saturating a patch of space in order to drown out any communication between the base and the vehicle. Thierry Berthier, lecturer and junior researcher at CREC Saint-Cyr

In the last part of the show Virginia Tournay, the author of Red Team, presented one of the latest scenarios invented by science fiction to educate the army: Chronicle of the declared cult death.

Program in partnership with Numerama: Every week, find the chronicles of Marie Turcan and Marcus Dupont-Benard.