Summary of the master class “How Is Technology Shifting the Paradigm of Modern Warfare?” at the 2012 Annual Members’ Conference.

Gen. James Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), Eighth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Moderated by Mr. Barry Pavel, Director, International Security Program, Atlantic Council

This session featured one of the leading experts on technology and its uses modern warfare, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the current Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies of the Center of Strategic and International Studies, General James E. Cartwright (USMC, ret.).

The development of technology and its uses in modern warfare, for instance the use of drones, is one of the most important topics in the defense community. This session provided an opportunity to explore the different technologies that are being develop, the challenges of technology in defense, and the issues that originate from the innovation and inventions of mankind in order to fight prepare for future wars.

The discussions focused on the many types of unconventional technologies that are available now and being constantly improved; the major achievements, lessons, and challenges that still lay ahead in the proper usage, safety, patent rights, and laws for these technologies; and most importantly, the ethical dimension on these technological developments.

Among the primary issues discussed were the role of small businesses in developing technologies, the nature of this fast-paced industry, knowledge management, social media, the possibilities of human-machine interface, and the need of continuous learning as new technologies are developed.

Limitations of the human body makes many activities in the military difficult to conduct, for instance, flying planes for twenty-four hours to assess the safety of a territory in a conflict area. This in turn is replaced by unmanned vehicles. The ability of a machine to complete a human’s job is astounding but the learning ability of humans would also complement such types of technological advancements.

The ability to combine machine and human to increase efficiency, safety, and production is controversial. Moreover, numerous policy, social, political, and cultural issues stem from this machine and human interface combination. The discussion highlights the complexity of technological advancements in modern warfare and the necessity to implement proper laws and patent rights to avoid the abuse of such technologies.

In addition, the question of the ultimate purpose of technological innovations for the use in future wars was briefly discussed briefly, particularly with regard to whether these developments are made for a country’s own advancement or for the benefit of the world.

The session concluded with strong encouragement to continue investing in research and development of new and unfamiliar technologies; discontinuing the habit of focusing solely on developing the legacy platforms of the United States; and the call for continuous learning and self-improvement parallel with the creation of new, unconventional knowledge and technologies.

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