SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Reuven Gal (Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Resilience & Social Issues Section, Samuel Neaman Institute, Technion, Israel), Dr. Ben Connable (Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; Adjunct Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University), and Dr. Aaron Frank (Senior Information Scientist, RAND) as part of its SMA Mind-tech Nexus Speaker Series.
Military leaders have long sought to understand what enables soldiers to willingly engage in combat and other dangerous activities. New technologies relating to the mind-tech nexus may allow scholars and leaders to understand why soldiers decide to place themselves in harm’s way, and even encourage it. Dr. Gal commented that four drivers are responsible for most soldiers’ decision to engage in combat are a) self-preservation, b) unit cohesion, c) leadership, and d) commitment. Commitment can take several forms, including loyalty to a leading officer. Soldiers in Yom-Kippur (1973), for instance, had a stronger commitment to the officers leading them into battle. This was unilateral across military branches. Also, overall unit cohesion and relationships within the team were clearly connected to troops’ willingness to take risks.
It is unclear how technology can show if units are forming cohesive and meaningful bonds, however. Dr. Frank stated that a better understanding of how technology can help and a soldier cope on the battlefield must be examined through a group lens, which includes looking at the group’s diversity. Diversity will ensure that the group is prepared for most obstacles that they encounter. Moreover, issues and concepts relating to human behavior and technology are not well-defined, according to the panelists. Therefore, scholars and military leaders will need to create a shared understanding of the mind-tech nexus, individuals’ will to fight, overall human behavior, and the character of war to understand the implications of neurotechnology on combat, Dr. Connable stated.
For access to the recording of this event, please email Ms. Nicole Omundson (email@example.com).