This project, sponsored by the Defence Engagement Program of the Department of National Defence and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, explored the burgeoning field of human performance enhancement in order to understand the impact of emerging technologies upon soldiers, and the moral and ethical dilemmas around the use of such technologies.

Initial steps in this project led to the ‘Future Canadian Soldier and Enhancement of Human Performance: Research meets Policy’ workshop on 2015 September 17-18, which brought together academics from a wide range of disciplines in the natural and social sciences in order to gain an understanding of current and future trajectories for soldier enhancement. This workshop, co-hosted by the Queen’s Centre for International and Defence Policy and the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, led to the emergence of four major themes for future research within this field:

  1. the establishment of a research program;
  2. the assessment of new enhancement programs;
  3. the broadening of the study of enhancement; and
  4. the balancing of operational goals with ethical complexities.

These themes were major focuses of the second workshop held on June 8-9, 2016.

Project Co-Organizers are Dr. Stefanie von Hlatky (Queen's - CIDP), Maj. H. Christian Breede (RMCC), and Dr. Stéphanie A. H. Bélanger (RMCC).

Policy Brief: The Future of the Canadian Soldier and Enhancement of Human Performance [PDF 1.1 mb]

OpenCanada: Harder, better, faster, stronger: The making of the future soldier

8-9 June 2016, Kingston, ON

2016 Workshop Report [PDF 508kb]

The topic of Human Performance Enhancement (HPE) is one that is riddled with complexity as it presents a number of unique social, psychological, and physiological challenges; challenges which are exacerbated when applied to the defence and security sector. Examining these challenges was the primary focus of a meeting held in Kingston, Ontario in September 2015. Entitled The Future Canadian Soldier and Enhancement of Human Performance: Research meets Policy, the workshop prepared the ground for further research by gathering both scholars and policy experts from a variety of disciplines to assess the current developments in human enhancement as it relates to the military. The main findings of the meeting were as follows:

  1. Establish a research program: a foundation upon which future scholarship can be built. This is accomplished by drawing on the many existing research fields which address human enhancement and bringing them together. In short, the human enhancement puzzle demands a multidisciplinary approach;
  2. Assess new enhancement programs against both their short- and long-term costs. Moreover, these costs are a combination of social, physiological, and psychological factors;
  3. Broaden the study of enhancement to include existing resilience initiatives, and
  4. Balance operational goals with the ethical complexities lying behind the issue of enhancement. Policy-makers should neither eschew enhancement outright nor adopt it wholesale. Rather, implementation needs to be considered, deliberate, and limited.

With these initial findings in mind, the goal of this second meeting is to continue an in-depth discussion around these four themes of establishing, assessing, broadening, and balancing with a view to producing an edited, scholarly volume with McGill-Queen’s University Press.

The Future Canadian Soldier and Enhancement of Human Performance: Research meets policy

17-18 September 2015, Kingston, ON

A soldier’s limits are constantly being tested in battle. Whether one thinks back 100 years to World War I or more recently, to the War in Afghanistan, the psychological and physical effects of war are always profound. Technological and medical innovations have certainly changed our expectations about military resilience, but just how far should a soldier’s limits be pushed? Western governments manage the risks of war by acquiring capabilities to protect soldiers from harm and to increase overall endurance during demanding missions. Although often successful, the results are not always as intended. The underlying trade-off is that any kind of human performance enhancement can imperil the health of individual soldiers for the sake of greater military effectiveness.

Recent innovations in the realm of performance enhancement appear straight out of  science fiction: the integration of exoskeletons, robots and drones for the most dangerous tasks; and biological and chemical enhancements to push human performance. These capabilities will increasingly be used in future Canadian military operations. While giving our soldiers supra-normal abilities and integrating their actions with fully automated drones improves combat effectiveness, there are moral, ethical, legal and health implications involved. This workshop, entitled “ The Future Canadian Soldier and Enhancement of Human Performance: Research meets Policy“ will gather scholars and policy experts from multidisciplinary fields to assess the merits of various current developments in military-focused Human Performance Enhancement.


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