Many new technologies follow an inevitable evolution that starts with invention and ends with exploitation by governments, usually for strategic defense purposes. Weaponization, in other words, often follows innovation. This is not a new trend. Stone tools were one of the first human inventions preserved in the archaeological record. In 1991, two Germans discovered a body embedded in a melting glacier in the Italian Alps. It turned out to be the mummified remains of a prehistoric man who died 5,300 years ago. Ötzi, as he was named, was found with a bow, a quiver of arrows, a copper axe, and several stone tools. Advanced imaging (X-ray and CT scan) revealed that he also had an arrowhead.
It was lodged in his back.
So it turns out that the human tendency to (1) invent new things, and (2) use them to attack others is something of a tradition. In modern times, we have followed it with every new technological advance. Within a dozen years of the Wright Brothers’ first flights in 1903, the first World War became the testing grounds for airplanes as weapons. Rockets that carry spacecraft into orbit can also carry nuclear warheads. GPS satellites that help us navigate to anywhere on the planet might also provide target guidance to those warheads. (At least in theory. I’m guessing the military has their own satellites that aren’t distracted by telling Uber drivers where to turn next). The association of many recent large-scale computer hacks to foreign states suggests that current and future wars will play out on a digital battlefield, an idea explored in books like Chuck’s ZER0ES.
The fear of biological weapons is what really keeps me up at night, though. As the recent pandemic has demonstrated, tiny pathogens can simultaneously kill millions of us and drive us apart like nothing else has done. SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is by all indications a naturally occurring virus in some other animal that made the leap to human. It has evolved in the face of every measure aimed at eliminating it. Now imagine if such a virus were weaponized. Engineered to be more infectious and more deadly. It’s a sobering thought and probably within reach of current biotechnology.
A couple of years ago I wrote a book about a slightly less frightening application of near-future biotechnology: using genetic engineering to create dragons. In Domesticating Dragons, genetic engineer Noah Parker goes to work for a company that creates customized dragons for use as pets and service animals. He has his own secret reasons for getting a job there which have little to do with dragons themselves. Yet for reasons I won’t spoil here, at the end of the book it’s apparent that the Build-A-Dragon Company will need some new customers.
In my new book, Deploying Dragons, their new customer is the U.S. Government. More specifically, it’s the Acquisition Corps, the body that oversees development and testing of new weapons systems for the U.S. Army. In other words, Noah and his colleagues aim to develop dragons into weapons. If you allow yourself the suspension of disbelief to buy into dragons, this makes a lot of sense. Dragons can do a lot of things that current weapon systems cannot. They can be adapted to ground, air, and marine environments. They can pass through metal detectors. And probably most important, they can think for themselves. I think if we had dragons like that, the U.S. government just might come calling. Granted, it’s more of a collaboration in my book than outright co-opting, but I think it still makes for a good story. Especially because, as Noah finds out, he’s not the only one who can design dragons anymore.
ABOUT DEPLOYING DRAGONS
A BIOTECH RACE AGAINST TIME TO DEVELOP MILITARY-GRADE DRAGONS. Brilliant genetic engineer Noah Parker is pitted head-to-head against the founder of Build-a-Dragon to design custom dragons for the military.
Genetic engineer Noah Parker has at last landed the job he’s long coveted: director of dragon design for the Build-A-Dragon Company. With a combination of genetic engineering and a cryptic device known as the Redwood Codex, he and his team can produce living, breathing dragons made-to-order. But sales of dragons have plummeted, and the Build-A-Dragon Company will have to find new revenue streams if it hopes to stay in business. A contract to develop dragons for the U.S. military promises a much-needed lifeline. Yet the specs are more challenging than anything Noah has ever designed. Worse, he learns that a shadow company headed by former CEO Robert Greaves has stolen the dragon-making technology to make a competing bid. Noah’s dragons will face off against those of his old adversary. It’s a head-to-head design competition, with the ethical future of domesticated dragons hanging in the balance.
Dan Koboldt is the author of the Gateways to Alissia trilogy (Harper Voyager) and the Build-A-Dragon Sequence (Baen), the editor of Putting the Science in Fiction and Putting the Fact in Fantasy (Writer’s Digest), and the creator of the sci-fi adventure serial The Triangle (Realm). As a genetics researcher, he has co-authored more than 100 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.
Dan Koboldt: Website
Deploying Dragons: Buy Here