Augmentation is a key issue in speculating about the future of war. As we noticed in our analysis of enhanced soldiers in imaginaries, strength and vision are the most common features that are adressed. In the recent “Upgrade” (2018), a nearly “Z” movie, but smart and realistic, most humans are augmented and it is rather hard to find bodies without any augmentation.

This translates into devices, cables etc that are embedded into oneself. Of course, we find these two very classic features of augmentation: more strength, and more powerful visual abilities through an augmented screen on the iris, and a less frequent device/weapon which is a gun in the arm…

Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell 

… or seeing a map on your body

Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell 

We also see numerous tropes that are nicely shown : being able to see behind a wall by taking advantage of opponent’s body temperature  is a rather generic UX in SF. Just like gaining access to memories of an augmented brain by seeing what has been recorded previously, during a fight scene for instance.

Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell 

But putting a bullet in your own arm is far less common. You need first to insert a bullet in a cavity around your forearm, then shoot just by using your mind as a initiator. Given your hand has to be open while shooting, your vision is then very poor and approximate. The most reasonable option is that you probably don’t know exactly where is your target, your mind doing that part of the job for you.

Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell 

This is precisely the most interesting hypothesis unfolded during the movie: what if an embodied AI is a double of me? What if the AI needs and requests your permission to take over the human body, but also his mind and act with his/her proper strength, but also speed and sense of anticipation of the opponent’s moves ?

Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell 

Two things at last are quite striking in this smart movie.

First, the body is the first and most natural tool of mankind, to quote Marcel Mauss, founder of the modern Fench anthropology.

Even nanobots are stocked and expelled from the body when blowing her nose. In the movie the whole body becomes a tool, enhanced by the AI

Upgrade (2018) – Leigh Whannell 

Second, it asks a strange question: what if an AI inhabited your body.

Being a cyborg doesn’t mean changing yourself and becaming someone else. Not only because of new physical features. But this happens also at the level of your own identity. And this is this a quite intense philosophical issue that the movie challenges.

And the movie does that by addressing concrete Interface design question like : how to deal with a second mind in your own consciousness ? How to make sure he/ she act under your own control? Going a step further than more common issues – like the Ghost in the Shell’s heroin talking to multiple bots at the same time, here the main character has to talk to himself. Something that will become more and more complex since the body appears to be part of this identity. So, how far becoming a cyborg means becoming someone else? And in the case of the Army, to what point are you willing to enhance a soldier if you do not manage these unintended consequences ?

N&O