Robot Zero: The Unintentional Rise of Robots

Image credit: The Telegraph/YouTube
Image credit: The Telegraph/YouTube

Why does the use of a robot dog to police humans during the COVID-19 pandemic so as to enforce physical distancing requirements makes me feel uneasy and reminds me of a possible “Rise of the Planet of the Robots?”

COVID-19 has kicked humanity in the teeth, forcing lock-downs worldwide and physical distancing to avoid getting contaminated by virus-carrying carriers. While some countries have sent police to patrol parks and streets to enforce the 2-metre (6 feet) physical distancing requirement, Singaporean authorities have gone one dangerous step further by handing over this policing job to a robot dog — previously designed by Boston Dynamics, and originally developed in 2015 using funding from the US’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Called SPOT, the dog-like robot was originally intended to be used to conduct search and rescue missions in dangerous situations (really?), but has now been repurposed to police human beings and enforce laws.

Currently, SPOT is remote-controlled and only sounds off a vocal warning to trespassers, but Boston Dynamics aim to achieve a fully autonomous robot in the near future. What happens when trespassers ignore the vocal warnings? Or, will the robot dog be repurposed for more rowdier crowd control with more potent means of dissuasion? Imagine a despot with an army of those robot dogs equipped with lethal weapons sent against a crowd of anti-government protesters. Robots have no ethical or moral compass to guide their actions.

Will the intentional or unintentional use of this robot dog to police and herd humans during the COVID-19 pandemic be looked back in the future as “SPOT – Robot Zero,” the very first precursor of AI autonomous robots “taking over the world?” We are all for AI and robotics, but the use of robots to police human activity is an ill-advised first step toward a more dangerous world order with unintended and unimaginable consequences for its inhabitants.

Read the story at IFLScience