Military psychology and the fourth industrial revolution

Implications for the South African National Defence Force's Directorate psychology

Authored by: Petrus C. Bester

The Routledge International Handbook of Military Psychology and Mental Health

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367237066
eBook ISBN: 9780429281266
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter seeks to evaluate the impact of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) on warfare in general and more specifically on the South African soldier to elicit a suitable response from the military psychology domain. The 4IRis about cyber-physical systems where man and machine are integrated, blurring the boundaries between the real and virtual world. Some of the core elements are robotics, advanced connectivity, autonomous vehicles, neurotechnology, quantum computing, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and big data. The use of new and old technologies in new ways increases the duration and operational tempo beyond the biological limitations of the human mind and body. The distinction between humans and machines becomes diffuse and in some instances, automated machines will challenge each other on the battlefield and make decisions without human interference. The 4IR is a “game-changer” that the South African National Defense Force cannot avoid, despite budget constraints. It affects military hardware, organizational structures and the human footprint in the organization. Military psychologists will have to focus on various activities to ensure optimally functioning soldiers for an efficient and capable future force. This chapter ends with suggestions on what the South African National Defence Force's Directorate Psychology must do to support its clients in the 4IR.

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