How 21st Century Technology is Changing the Way we Fight and Think About War
As their roles become more demanding, specialised and far removed from their own inborn predispositions, will the military require ever more years of ‘programming’?
Warrior Geeks examines how technology is transforming the way we think about and fight war, taking three major changes that are driving this process: cybernetic technologies that are folding soldiers into a cybernetic system that will allow the military to read their thoughts and emotions and mould them accordingly; the coexistence of men and robots in the battle-spaces of tomorrow; and the extent to which we may be able to re-engineer warriors through pharmacological manipulation. By referring back to the Greeks who defined the contours of war for us, Coker shows how we are in danger of losing touch with our humanity – the name we give not only to a species but the virtues we deem it to embody. The journey from Greeks to Geeks may be a painful one. War can only be rendered more humane if we stay in touch with the ancestors, yet unfortunately we are planning to subcontract our ethical choices to machines. In revaluing technology, are we devaluing our humanity, or the post-human condition, changing our subjectivity and thus the existential dimension of war by changing our relationship with technology both functionally and performatively?
‘Do not let the almost flippant title of Christopher Coker’s Warrior Geeks fool you. The title reflects the catchy philological antithesis between science (the geeks) and philosophy (the Greeks). The resulting tension is explored in a masterly account from a very well-read humanist about the fearful advance of post-human technologies in war. From Thucydides to Joseph Conrad, Professor Coker invokes most of the great analysts of Western military experience to underline his central thesis: that up to now war has been an entirely human enterprise, conjuring up within soldiers heroism, idealism and self-sacrifice, as well as the worst of savagery and brutality. … Warrior Geeks is a brilliantly learned reflection on the ultimate amorality of a dystopian war that would have no courage, no cowardice, no patriotism, no principled pacifism – not much of anything other than casual death, a boring sort of continually rewound reality show, but on an unimaginably bloody scale.’ –– Victor Davis Hanson, Times Literary Supplement
‘The Age of Martial Robotics is upon us and no one has captured the impending revolution in warfare with its accompanying moral dilemmas more incisively or eloquently than Christopher Coker. Warrior Geeks, his latest work on the subject of posthuman warfare, brilliantly exposes the divide between traditional Western military ethos and the inevitable rise of machine-based combat. An exceptional book.’ — Everett Dolman, Professor of Military Strategy, USAF School of Advanced Air and Space Studies
‘There are few writers who can do what Christopher Coker has accomplished in Warrior Geeks, which takes the reader on a journey that connects everything from Socrates to Oliver Stone movies to the latest in warfare and digital technologies. His work is always substantive, and sometimes even lyrical.’ — Peter Singer, Senior Fellow and Director, 21st Century Defense Initiative, The Brookings Institution, and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
‘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.’ — Steve Redhead, Times Higher Education
‘A compelling and erudite engagement with the momentous transformative effects that a seemingly ever-accelerating influx of technoscientific innovation is having on the practice and experience of war and, by extension, on humanity itself.’ — Antoine Bousquet, Global Policy
‘To describe a Coker book as an intellectual tour de force is perhaps the most anodyne observation a reviewer can make; of course it would be, and of course this one is, too. This latest offering is a rich synthesis of ideas and intellectual trajectories drawn from the annals of literature, philosophy, history, and science, and transmitted in a language that speaks as much to pop culture sensibilities as it does to the more esoteric and often impenetrable nooks and crannies of academe.’ — Michael Innes, Current Intelligence
‘A fascinating historical and philosophical tour of modern warfare. … The chief concern outlined by Coker is that the ingenuity driving military science is spiralling out of control. The ‘geeks’ are creating technologies — designer drugs, robotics and neural devices — that, ultimately, he feels, will dehumanize us.’ — Nature
‘Coker’s book is not the first to discuss new trends in current and future warfare [but it does so] from a much deeper, interdisciplinary perspective. … Coker argues that technology is our culture [drawing on] a variety of disciplines and sources, such as the classics, archaeology, modern history, popular literature, video games, neuroscience and more’ — RUSI Journal
‘In Warrior Geeks, Christopher Coker demonstrates again that he is the master of … defining major trends of the past and present and projecting them onto the years to come. Coker’s book is not the first to discuss new trends in current and future warfare: the cyber dimension, unmanned aircraft and vehicles, robotics and so on – all of these have been at the centre of an academic-political-military debate. Warrior Geeks, however, approaches it from a much deeper, interdisciplinary perspective.’ — The RUSI Journal
‘This is a brilliant book about a rather nightmarish topic, i.e., how technology now enables us to become post-humans … It is not only a very important book but also a deeply disconcerting one.’ — The US Army War College Quarterly
‘This book offers a good exercise for readers who wish to be challenged on their thinking about the nature of warfare—yesterday, today and tomorrow.’ — ARMY
Christopher Coker was Director of LSE IDEAS, the London School of Economics foreign policy think-tank. His recent books include Rebooting Clausewitz; Men at War; and The Improbable War: China, the United States and the Logic of Great Power Conflict, all published by Hurst.