The Implications of Emerging
Technologies for Just War Theory
by Brad Allenby
Technological evolution and military activity have been linked throughout history. The relationship is not, however, straightforward. The existential challenge to society represented by warfare, combined with the immediate advantage
that new technology can deliver, tends to accelerate technological innovation and diffusion; the inherent conservatism of military personnel, the emphasis on tradition and culture that marks many military organizations, and the high costs of experimentation in conflict environments serve as a powerful brake on technological evolution. Similarly, the relationships among military and security technology systems and consequent institutional, cultural, and social changes are profound, complex, unpredictable, and often subtle. Many technologies of sufficient
power to be of interest militarily have at least the potential to be deeply destabilizing to existing economic, social, and technological systems, especially as they are introduced into civil society. As military radio frequency identification
(RFID) and sensor systems, and robots and cyborgs at many different scales, are shifted from theatre intelligence and combat to civil society environments, for example, the implications for privacy, and for the balance between national security and civil rights, could be substantial. Technologies that can accelerate the development of human varietals within the overall population could be very effective for warriors, but raise difficult issues for social stability (many cultures, after all, do not deal very gracefully or equitably with the race, gender, and sexual preference differences that have long been part of the human story). Equally important, emerging technologies are likely to have similar destabilizing effects within the military as well, potentially affecting not just operations, but military culture and organization as well.