In the Marvel Universe, Dr. Abraham Erskine turned a thin, short, and good-hearted civilian Steve Rogers into Captain America using Super Soldier serum. For decades, Captain America was a comic book story but if the U.S. National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe is to be believed, China is also creating biologically enhanced super soldiers. Now, France also appears to be interested in creating a super soldier program, albeit with a different approach.
What France wants to do is different from China. Instead of biologically enhancing soldiers that violates the ethical boundary, France wants to upgrade its soldiers technologically using exoskeletons. The concept has been discussed in length by military powers like the U.S. and with advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence, it may not be a bad idea.
Such exoskeletons will provide extra strength to soldiers who would be able to carry more weight for a longer duration without fatigue. In addition, it will provide soldiers extra protection against explosives and bullets. Recently, the Singapore Army had trialed a titanium exoskeleton for its troops.
Using technology such as implants, France wants to boost its troops' cerebral capacity. The implants will be able to automatically inject drugs to reduce combat-related stress while help in differentiating friendly and enemy soldiers on the battlefield. Another surgical implant will help with improved hearing.
Apart from technology, performance-enhancing drugs are another area that the ethical committee of the French Ministry of Armed Forces is mulling over. Such drugs, a combination of anabolic steroids and other naturally occurring chemicals, can help users endure pain while also increase stamina, speed, strength, and energy.
However, for a democratic country like France, creating such a program comes with plenty of red-tape obstacles. Even the Minister France's Armed Forces, Florence Parly, does not completely agree to such "invasive evolutions" but she believes if any other country chooses to do so, France must be ready. "But we have to be clear. Not everyone has our scruples and it is a future for which we have to be prepared," Parly told media.
China's Plans to Dominate World
If that is the plan of a democratic nation, an autocratic country like China would definitely have something that would be from a comic book. Ratcliffe's op-ed for the Wall Street Journal hints at such an idea that stunned many. According to him, China has already conducted clinical trials on the People's Liberation Army cadets to develop super soldiers who are biologically enhanced — similar to Khan Noonien Singh of Star Trek.
"U.S. intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People's Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities. There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing's pursuit of power," Ratcliffe wrote.
Later, on Fox News, he clarified to Tucker Carlson that China resorted to gene-editing to make soldiers more powerful. The technique is known as CRISPR. The novel method aims to eliminated genetic disorders but many scientists have warned against its misuse. That's the reason why CRISPR on humans is banned in many countries.
In China, gene-editing in humans is also prohibited by law if it "endangers the health or violates ethical norms." Last year, when Chinese scientist, Dr. He Jiankui from the Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, "created" the world's first gene-edited human babies, twin girls named Lulu and Nana, it raised ethical questions.
He secretly carried out experiments to help HIV-positive parents have babies who will be immune to the virus. By editing the CCR5 gene in the embryo, He made Lulu and Nana genetically resistant to HIV. While his plan was noble, it didn't go down well amongst the international scientific community. China was quick to take action and He was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison. However, if Ratcliffe's information is correct, China isn't considering legality when it comes to ramping up its military.