Imagine a future in which biological entities have developed self-repairing autonomous weapons of war that are each equipped with their own AI, that are faster, stronger, smarter, more durable, more reliable, more loyal, more obedient, cheaper and quicker to produce than the biological entities which produced them.

These autonomous weapons range in size from the microsocopic to the size of the largest ships, and where required, can be superficially indistinguishable to a member of the species that created them.

No single biological soldier, no matter how well trained, can face any of these autonomous weapons in combat and expect to win, and while victory for the biological entity is possible, it is unlikely and is usually more a matter of good luck than judgement or skill.

In such an environment, where a war may be fought between armies of opposing machines and where no biological combatant could expect to survive being present on the battlefield, what place do the biological entities have?


While the biological entities need not be human, this question doesn't preclude them from being human.

The biologicals are in charge. They dictate the military objectives and terms of engagement, and the AIs do the rest.

We can assume that the biologicals are divided into multiple polities, each with their own ethical stance, but the majority disapproving of things like wholesale slaughter of civilians, causing massive environmental damage, or polities that break these rules.

The weapons are made, maintained and operated by highly intelligent nanotechnology. They can be made anywhere that the raw materials are available, in as little as a day.

Nanotechnology is ubiquitous, but the quality of the weapons it can produce depends on the availability and quality of the software.

Even civilians can produce third-rate weapons at fairly short notice, but actively doing this would mark them as being legitimate military targets, akin to militia.

Technologically enhanced biologicals are still less capable than third-rate weapons - or are so far from their original form as to be able to be considered a different species.


Yes, the biologicals are the manufacturers and commanders of the AI weapons, however the question is "What place would biologicals have on the battlefield?", not "What is the role of biologicals in warfare?" - that is already obvious, as has been pointed out in comments.

In the event of an armed conflict involving AI weapons, would non-combatant biologicals in the battle zone be able to plod obliviously through the battlefield, confident that the AI weapons would avoid harming them, or would the biologicals be scrambling to build their own AI automaton bodyguards, or would some other situation occur? Could biologicals - enhanced or unenhanced - have an active military role, or would they all remain aloof from the conflict to avoid being targeted and killed?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Targets? I mean, what's the point of a battle if you don't kill off enough of the enemy to get them to surrender or retreat? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    May 5, 2017 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf, the battle would be between automata for the most part. If an army of automata faced unassisted biologicals, the biologicals' defeat would be assured, and hence no sane biological would put themselves into such a situation without their own automata save as a seppuku-like gesture of protest against some percieved injustice. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    May 5, 2017 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ If not targets, then hostages. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 5, 2017 at 5:41
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Why are they fighting? What's the role of meatbags in society in general? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    May 5, 2017 at 7:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In a world where biological entities are obsolete compared to machines, why are there still biological entities? $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 7:37

5 Answers 5


The question makes the implicit assumption that the biological entities will be soldiers. Obviously they won't be, the machines will be the soldiers. Any biological entities will be either officers or operators directing combat waged by the machines. The biological entities won't be on the battlefield. There is no reason for them to be there. warfare has moved on.

Warfare mainly no longer involves soldier on soldier combat. It is about the projection of force on civilian populations. Wars are becoming more and more acts of terrorism carried out by both State and non-State actors. The soldiery is now too well-armed and well-equipped this makes combat between military forces exercises in annihilating each other. This reduces the point for armed forces to fight each other. When the soldiery is machinery, this point is reduced to an effective zero.

Battlefields will be lethal autonomous weapons attacking civilian populations. The biological entities will be giving orders and directing the killer robots where to go. They will far away from the battlefield. The biological entities won't be military, they will be targets or, in military old-speak, collateral damage.

  • $\begingroup$ That is, under the assumption that biological entities are in charge, or that morality still has a place in there. This draws up back to the popular question of machine sentience. OP mentioned loyalty, though to whom was obscured, so there's no guarantee for who's in charge. The machines could always targer biological beings, and that could make for an entirely different answer. $\endgroup$
    – Lucifer
    May 5, 2017 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Lucifer The OP specifies that the biological entities are in charge (see Edit). Machines versus machines? That's not likely, although possible. Drones target and kill human beings -- now. That's where warfare is going. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    May 6, 2017 at 4:59

1. Weapons that make machines useless This kind of warfare demands a high level of coordination between the machines. If you disrupt their transmissions, they are useless. Same goes for strong EMP weapons. Humans are unharmed by them. There is also the possibility of computer viruses. And on top of that, machines might transmit. Humans can be stealthy more easily, even blending in with local wild life given advanced sensors. An army of humans can easily defeat a machine army given the right tools.

2. Humans are actually cheaper Also, today, machines are a lot more expensive and a lot less disposable than people. You would rather lose a few hundred soldiers than a tank. In the past, people even had to pay for their own equipment. So if your government demands war service (or society, for honor !), it might not have to spend a dime on it.

3. Morality And there is the moral problem. People have no problem with killing billions of machines, but nobody just carpet bombs away an army of a thousand soldiers. If two nations are in a war and one shows up with a robot army, the other one might just evaporate it without any protest from its people. The human army won't just be nuked - there would be redemption from the other nation, most likely vs the civilians of the opposing side.


  • $\begingroup$ So, human shields? $\endgroup$ May 5, 2017 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ This is one possibility $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    May 5, 2017 at 13:04

If the AI is super advanced, why can't the biologicals be super advanced?

By the time artificial intelligence and machines are competent enough to completely control battlefields, why wouldn't biologically engineered super soldiers also exist?

  • You could have biological soldiers with super-advanced senses, reflexes, and strength, like Captain America, or Kurt Russel in Solider.

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  • You could have biological soldiers with an engineered, advanced healing factor; maybe not as ridiculous as Wolverine, but able to recover within minutes from stray shrapnel and small caliber bullets.

  • You could have biologically engineered super weapons, for example all of the Zerg in Starcraft.

From DeviantArt


It is decreed by the Hextate that every Mechanoid soldier must remain brilliantly polished on the battlefield, so as to reflect not only the light of the Sun, but also the brilliance and glory of the Mechanoid empire. Yet it would be a dereliction of duty for a Mechanoid to waste precious cycles cleaning shrapnel and other deleterious from their vast surfaces in the heat of battle. This task is therefore to be delegated to an array of inferior biological servitors chained behind each Mechanoid. Each human shall be armed with a single mop and a backpack containing an array of carefully selected cleaning products. They will polish, they will scrub, and if they dare bleed their filthy blood upon our heavenly metallic surfaces they shall be ripped from their chains and tossed asunder into the ranks of the enemy.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! I am always more critical when reading in-universe posts. This applies to answers and questions. But I like your idea. It's a good addition to the already existing ones and you have a cool writing style. Interesting start. Looking forward to your contributions! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    May 5, 2017 at 11:43

Since robots are "are faster, stronger, smarter, more durable, more reliable, more loyal, more obedient, cheaper and quicker to produce" than non-robots, there is only one quality I can think of that gives an advantage to non-robots: availability.

Sure, in an hour you can produce ten thousand pristine killbots, but the enemy is attacking now. What will you chose to defend yourself, a few scrappy humans armed with fists, teeth and some rocks; or ten thousand killbots in an hour? Choose fast, the bear is about to maul you in ten seconds.

Or consider a galactic empire, forty million shock troopers standing army; all made obsolete by the new auto-soldier. Wouldn't it be nice to recoup some of that investment? Sure, you loose a thousand troopers for each enemy, but you're not getting anything if you just disband them. Their training cost is a sunk cost.


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