11 May, 2020 by Nicholas West
The move toward using robots in law enforcement, private security, and even to scare away the homeless, has been a decade-long trend that is now becoming much more prevalent in everyday life in the wake of COVID-19. Where people were once appalled that drones went from “search and rescue” duties to surveillance, the Overton window has quickly moved to pandemic drones that can use thermal imaging to scan the public’s temperature readings.
The robots are able to scan anyone walking on the sidewalks, record license plates, use infrared vision, and one of the scariest uses of this technology is the capability to detect cellphone serial numbers within a designated patrolling area.
Apparently, those uses could seem quaint if we take the latest news from Singapore as a sign of things to come.
A Boston Dynamics/DARPA-funded robot named “Spot” is now being seen in parks barking orders at passersby to maintain their distance.
Singapore also happens to be the first place to have tested what is now taking over the daily news cycle: contact tracing. As you can see in the video above, Spot has an array of cameras and sensors which undoubtedly could also assist in this task.
Boston Dynamics is of course an American company funded by the Pentagon’s research division, so it would be unwise to assume that these robots will never make it to the streets of America.
But, wait, they already have.
As Elias Marat wrote for The Mind Unleashed, Massachusetts police have tested Spot for use as part of the bomb squad. As you’ll see below, Spot has been modified to open doors:
A company called YouBionic has gone a step further and created a modification for Spot that would appear to give even more human-like flexibility for performing tasks.
As I’ve questioned in previous articles about robodogs: Didn’t anyone see that episode of Black Mirror — “Metalhead”?
Spoiler alert: it didn’t have a happy ending.
As we see each area of the world adopting the most draconian policies and technologies soon after they are introduced, is it really far-fetched anymore to be concerned that these robodogs will be used not only for contact tracing and social distancing police, but also as quarantine enforcement and extraction? As Spiro Skouras has reported, home extraction of COVID suspects who are unable to “properly” quarantine at home has been discussed in California.
We have entered very strange times where warnings of dystopian outcomes from misuse of robotics and artificial intelligence are instead cheered on by major media outlets like NBC with this headline: “Robot Dog Helping Keep People Safe in Singapore.”
And it can’t happen here?