Warrior Geeks: How 21st Century Technology Is Changing the Way We Fight and Think about War

Article excerpt

Warrior Geeks: How 21st Century Technology Is Changing The Way We Fight and Think About War. By Christopher Coker. C. Hurst & Co. 384pp, Pounds 25.00. ISBN 9781849042543. Published 18 February 2013

Prince Harry was recently pilloried in the global media because he spoke of killing people as part of his military duties in Afghanistan in language that was better suited to a description of playing a video game. Even though it was later partially retracted, his statement underlines Christopher Coker's thesis in this fascinating book. The subtitle - How 21st Century Technology is Changing the Way We Fight and Think About War - is a play on the subtitle of Susan Greenfield's 2003 book, Tomorrow's People: How 21st-Century Technology is Changing the Way We Think and Feel. But it is also a powerful statement of our plunge into what I would call the "post-future". The urgent question today is fast becoming "When will we be post-human?"

Coker's deployment of wide-ranging sources in this stylish, accessible book is breathtaking. As he ranges across neuroscience, anthropology, cybernetics, history, psychology, philosophy, science fiction and literature with consummate ease, the sum of his erudition feels like a warning beacon as we anticipate the post-human world to come. There is lots of reading pleasure to be had along the way, with gems of personal and biographical data about his subjects thrown in to keep us hooked. For instance, did you know that the term "robot" was coined by playwright Karel Capek from a Czech word meaning "forced labour"? Or that someone who survived direct exposure to both nuclear strikes on Japan in 1945 lived until 2010?

Coker is just as good at painting a picture for us about the sheer banality of the lives of the guys who turn up for work at an "office" in the back of a truck where they electronically guide unmanned drones in Afghanistan or Pakistan, 7,000 miles away from their nondescript home in the US. What can Coker see around the cybernetic military bend? What will post-human warfare look like? The drones are now more numerous than the soldiers; we have almost gone too far in accelerating military technology, and invested too much money, to turn back now. …