Elliot Carver, James Bond villain in Tomorrow Never Dies, once opined that there is no news like bad news. Anyone who has been paying attention to the news for the last few years would probably conclude that editors in newsrooms the world over have taken this message to heart.

Well now there is a new one to add to the list of mutated virus strains, economic and political instability and environmental doom. Genetically advanced super-soldiers. Captain America meets Brave New World.

One prominent Chinese general gave a presentation in 2017 that reportedly talked:

“…modern biotechnology and its integration with information, nano [technology], and the cognitive domains will have revolutionary influences upon weapons and equipment, the combat spaces, the forms of warfare, and military theories.”

China has now confirmed that theoretical work is underway. Chinese research is said to be based on using the gene-editing tool CRISPR – clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats – to boost the performance of people. In the past it has been used to treat illnesses.

According to Elsa Kania, an expert on Chinese defense technology at the Center for a New American Security, and Wilson VornDick, a consultant on China matters and former Navy officer:

“While the potential leveraging of CRISPR to increase human capabilities on the future battlefield remains only a hypothetical possibility at the present, there are indications that Chinese military researchers are starting to explore its potential, Chinese military scientists and strategists have consistently emphasized that biotechnology could become a ‘new strategic commanding heights of the future Revolution in Military Affairs.'”

It isn’t just the Chinese. A report released by the French military this week outlines various procedures that will enhance soldiers’ physical, cognitive, perceptive and psychological capacities, including suppressing the sensation of pain, improving their cognitive abilities via computer links, enhancing their perception through night and IR vision and strengthening their mental defenses against torture.

If the Chinese and the French are looking at it, then so will be the US, the British and the Russians in some form or another.

A Kings College London professor, Michael Clark, was quoted in a British tabloid as saying the super soldier arms race is now underway:

“We’ve reached the point now where we could potentially manipulate people’s DNA to breed into them extra strength, endurance and other things just as we do with animals. Just as we’ve done with standard cattle to give them more back, we can do that now very precisely with humans.”

“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.”

Needle-phobic Chinese infantry on their way to the glorious revolution

What a dystopian future we appear to have in store. When I was growing up the TV promised me my own jet-pack and a holiday home on the moon by now. What went wrong? Captain America made super-soldiering seem like such fun, but this sounds terrible!

If movies have to start coming true, can we do that one about a magical chocolate factory instead?