If you are not all that enthusiastic about increasing automation and rising robot power, we have bad news. Robots taking away humans’ jobs will soon be the least of your worries– because they might have permission to take away human lives shortly. San Francisco is a crucial testing ground. In what seems to be a move in the direction of making dystopian movies a reality, the police department of San Francisco is in the process of petitioning the city’s Board of Supervisors to permit robots to deploy lethal force (read: kill) suspects in some specific circumstances.
The saga began with a draft policy that the SFPD wrote. In essence, the policy seeks to permit Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) to kill suspects deemed to pose such a threat that the “risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.” For the uninitiated, LAWS are basically robots with weapons.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin had attempted to curb the use of force by these police robots by inserting a phrase in the policy language. However, with a push from the SFPD, he later changed his stance, saying that “there could be scenarios where the deployment of lethal force was the only option.” Following this U-turn, the policy was unanimously passed by a rules committee. That’s one obstacle out of the way. Now, the policy is set to face the scrutiny and vote of the city’s entire board of supervisors on Tuesday, November 29.
Reports suggest that the SFPD already has 17 robots, of which a dozen are “fully functional”. These machines have so far been employed in dealing with bomb threats or inspecting areas that the police can not. Mission District-based media outlet Mission Local quoted Police spokesman Officer Robert Rueca saying there was no specific plan regarding the scenarios where these robots would utilise lethal force. However, he assured that it would only be in rare or exceptional circumstances.
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