What happened in Dallas was awful. No matter what you think of any of the issues that led up to the shooting which resulted in the death of five police officers and injured six more, there is no doubt that this was a very bad scene.
While this event is sure to have numerous and serious ramifications for our country, for police officers, and for the civil rights movement, it also set a new precedent for how police do business.
After a long standoff and negotiation with police, one suspect was killed by an explosion detonated by a bomb robot.
So you might think this sounds kind of cool. Wow. A robot. What will they think of next? But, like most things of this nature, it is a bit more complicated than that.
You see, robots can’t make split second decisions, robots can’t decide what is the right thing to do in the moment. They can’t notice if there is an innocent person that is cowering in a corner. Basically all a bomb robot can do, if it functions correctly, is roll into a room and blow it up, and when it blows it up, everyone else that is in, or near the room, blows up too.
Robots have been becoming a bit more common in police work over the last few years. As you might expect, this type of technology was initially developed for military use, as well as huge disasters that need to be responded to. It did not take long before police departments figured it could help them out in their jobs too. They often use the robots to diffuse or detonate bombs. Another use for the robots is to equip them with cameras to scout locations. To put it simply, they can be used for various jobs that could be dangerous for the police.
Which obviously includes killing people. I mean come on, what could be more dangerous for the police than actually killing someone?
The Dallas shooting appears to be the first time a police robot has been used to kill.
Friday morning Dallas police chief David Brown said in a press conference:
“We cornered one suspect and we tried to negotiate for several hours. Negotiations broke down, we had an exchange of gunfire with the suspect, we saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was. Other options would have exposed our officers to great danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”
These types of police robots are not autonomous. This basically means they do not make decisions using artificial intelligence on their own.
I get that the police were in a seriously bad situation that day, and I understand they wanted it to end. But police using robots to kill criminals could very well have serious ramifications in the future in the area of civil rights, ones that could dwarf what the world is witnessing now.