Sunday, December 15, 2013


Techno Police 21. (Wiki.)

by Louis Shalako

The future is now.

Robot policing is already here.

“Police are already experimenting with robots, both armed and unarmed, and it’s only a matter of time before robots become standard in the surveillance, analysis and enforcement of crimes. They are never tired, irritable, in need of a break or biased, but neither are they able to take in the context of any given situation. Police know there is future for robotic law enforcement in traffic violations (for example, will a car’s onboard computer simply shut the vehicle down as soon as it starts speeding?), but how far will this extend? At what point is human instinct and judgment necessary in the enforcement of law or prevention of crimes? Is it most efficient to build a supposedly bias-free system of law that is responsible for determining, adjudicating and punishing crime?” Reilly Centre, Notre Dame.

I can only imagine how the bourgeoisie would feel if their $90,000 BMW, capable of 140 mph, shut down unexpectedly and when it was towed to a garage, they found out there was nothing wrong with it.

So that part is a bit overblown. Traffic chaos is counterproductive in economic terms, and the economy is the new God.

The most obvious use of robots, one that is already happening in the U.S. and Canada, is the use of drones or UAVs for police surveillance. UAVs are increasingly used for domestic police work in Canada and the United States: a dozen US police forces had applied for UAV permits by March 2013. Texas politician and commentator Jim Hightower has warned about potential privacy abuses from aerial surveillance. In February 2013, Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn responded to protests by scrapping the Seattle Police Department’s plan to deploy UAVs. (Wiki.)

The American Civil Liberties Union blog: Domestic Drones.


Driverless Cop Cars

Google’s driverless car might make a pretty good adjunct to more mundane domestic policing.

In this scenario, the driverless car simply sets up on the U-turn provisions that all divided highways have for emergency vehicle turnaround. Since there is no human driver to look out the window, the radar-gun is already deployed in the front windshield and with license-plate recognition software, offending drivers will receive their ticket by mail, and if they wish to dispute the ticket, they can attend court on the day appointed and, in Canada, argue it out with the Crown’s robot prosecutor and the robot-judge, which must sound very attractive to our presently very conservative government. In some jurisdictions people who run red lights are already subject to intersection surveillance cameras and ticketing. That one went through some debate locally and was shot down. They are legal in some places. (Trapster.) See also: Rutherford Institute.

Humanoid Robots sell Movie Tickets

I honestly think that humanoid robots like the sexy Peter Weller Robocop will definitely not be the norm. They do sell movie tickets. Modern film is geared to the mentality of ten year-olds.

Small, tracked or six-wheeled autonomous robots are much more likely because bipedal locomotion will be seen as unnecessary and it takes up a lot of computing power.

The psychological effect of a big red robot Mountie cannot be overlooked, and there will probably be a few of them purchased, to stand out in front of the Parliament buildings—tourists will love getting their pictures taken beside them of course; and in a real emergency, their memory banks will be downloaded looking for terrorist suspects. The metal and high-temperature plastic of their bodies will mean that in a fire or explosion, a human perpetrator taking a hostage, they can intervene quickly while regular (warm-blooded) police are still in transit.

Here’s some video of DARPA’s police robot. A humanoid robot is not completely useless, people may be more inclined to obey orders from something recognizable, as opposed to a box on wheels or tracks.

In the film ‘Fifth Element’ starring Bruce Willis, Mila Vovovich and Gary Oldman, there is a scene where a robotic insect penetrates security, complete with camera and microphone pick-up.

Steve Juvetson. (Wiki.)
The president smashes it with his hand or something. But in surveillance, penetrating people’s homes to eavesdrop, or better yet, clinging to a window and picking up conversations through the vibrations of the glass, seems a pretty likely scenario.

Here’s Mythbusters' Adam Savage with his new spider robot. (Youtube.) This one’s pretty big, but with miniaturization and nanotech, the new police ‘bugs’ would be quite small, and to the human eye, indistinguishable from a real insect.

When you consider just how murky convenience store and gas station security camera pictures usually are, and yet when you consider just how many convictions are obtained with what may be the only piece of evidence in a particular case, one would think that the camera and microphone technology would have to be vastly improved. Yet people are shooting some pretty good pics and videos on their smart-phones, and this is a mass-produced commercial application.

The cop-bugs will be state of the art where essentially cost is no object and the middle-class will no doubt support their use because after all, it’s not their kids doing hard time on evidence that would have been inadmissible a few short years previously. By the time they figure out their mistake, it will of course be too late.

Sooner rather than later, robotic snakes will be crawling through the drain pipes and up into the bathroom, and who knows, maybe right up the old wazoo.

Robot Prison Guards

The Republic of South Korea has already rolled out their first robotic prison guards. At a cost of $879,000 each, they’re not exactly cheap, but with mass production and economies of scale, the price will quickly come down. Here in Canada, a brand-new police officer starts off at about $78,000 a year in salary. They get other benefits as well, bringing the total up to about $100,000 a year in costs per officer. Prison guards don’t get quite that much, but it’s still expensive. It is also easy to see that a robot with a one-time cost of perhaps $300,000 would, over the life of the product, result in some real cost savings.

Robot guards can’t be bribed to bring in guns, drugs or smokes—a pack of smokes is real currency in a jail and I’ve heard some astronomical prices for two or three smokes in a jail setting, i.e., fifteen bucks for three smokes. Inmates tear them apart and roll them up in smaller cigarettes and according to one source, ‘That’s your smoking for the day.’

Robot guards would have no resentment and at least on some theoretical level, would have no reason to mistreat prisoners, would have no bigotry in the sense that they wouldn’t care about your skin colour, the nature of your offence, and all that sort of thing. They would also have no reason to look the other way, (paperwork being the bane of existence in bureaucratic systems) and would simply record everything for future reference.

They are also completely incapable of showing kindness or mercy to an inmate, something often overlooked in the sales brochures.

In a medical or psychological emergency, all the robots could do would be to call for human intervention, and in the prison setting, in the future, warm bodies of an official nature will be in short supply. Standard prison models in Canada, using modern prison design, use a minimal two officers per shift to supervise up to 192 inmates. With robot guards, inmate suicide numbers would probably see an increase in the number of fatalities.

In the movie, ‘Robocop,’ when two thugs grabbed a woman for a little ‘rape-party,’ Robocop intervened and the audience cheered. When he shot one of them in the balls, the audience clapped and applauded.

That’s what the cheerleaders for robotic policing want you to see, and to think about the coming robotic revolution in policing, a revolution that has already seen the first shots fired.

But there is a dark side, and that dark side of law enforcement stems from the current social and political climate, not just in the U.S., and the U.K., where they also have a Conservative government as we do in Canada.

Perhaps Bill Moyers said it best:

"The Unfinished Work of America"

Bill Moyers

“In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a moral compact embedded in a political contract or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.”

“I should make it clear that I don’t harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy.  Remember, I worked for Lyndon Johnson.  Nor do I romanticize ‘the people.’ You should read my mail and posts on right-wing websites.  I understand the politician in Texas who said of the state legislature, “If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents.”

“But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens (something otherwise known as social justice) and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud.  That can be the difference between democracy and plutocracy.”

“Toward the end of Justice Brennan’s tenure on the Supreme Court, he made a speech that went to the heart of the matter.  He said: ‘We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses…Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.’”

“And so we are. One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on the blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg and called Americans to ‘the great task remaining.’  That ‘unfinished work,’ as he named it, remained the same then as it was when America’s founding generation began it. And it remains the same today: to breathe new life into the promise of the Declaration of Independence and to assure that the Union so many have sacrificed to save is a union worth saving.” Naked Capitalism.

The Dark Side of Automated Policing

We are well on the way down that road to the dark side.

Nowhere in the Constitution, in the U.S. or Canada, does it say that you have to have employment to have the rights of a citizen. There is no litmus test in terms of income or property. A lot of people don’t get that, and if they do, they simply don’t care.

What is disturbing, and this is not just in the U.S., is the amount of ignorance, prejudice and bigotry still present in the system.

The loudest mouths, and those with the biggest war-chest for lobbying, will have their way with society.

The future of law-enforcement is very bright. For the citizens, the future will be very dark indeed if that is allowed to go on without some checks and balances in the system.

The right to be left alone is one of the cornerstones of the U.S. Constitution.

You might as well forget it, that one is long dead.

You Won't Need a Warrant for That

"Have no doubt: the Fourth Amendment is fast becoming an artifact of a paper-based world.”

"The core idea behind that amendment, which prohibits the government from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ is that its representatives only get to invade people's private space -- their ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ -- after it convinces a judge that they're up to no good. The technological advances of the last few decades have, however, seriously undermined this core constitutional protection against overzealous government agents, because more and more people don't store their private information in their homes or offices, but on company servers.”

Consider email.

“In a series of rulings from the 1970's, the Supreme Court created ‘the third-party doctrine.’ Simply stated, information shared with third parties like banks and doctors no longer enjoys protection under the Fourth Amendment. After all, the court reasoned, if you shared that information with someone else, you must not have meant to keep it private, right? But online almost everything is shared with third parties, particularly your private e-mail.”

Even weirder still: in the future, people who appear to be doing nothing at all will become suspicious.

Surely you have something better to do. It's unnatural to be doing nothing at all.

Surely you must be up to something.

We will no longer have the right to be left alone.

Our world will not be destroyed by terrorism, it will not be destroyed by socialism, or communism, or any of the other ‘isms’ that we all love to talk about as if we actually knew something about it.

“We simply must have order.” This phrase has justified more ignorant laws than any other single thing I can think of.

In Canada, fifteen people can successfully lobby the government for a law that applies to all.

And if one kid is killed by a drunk driver, new calls for ‘tougher laws’ dominate the front pages of our newspapers and the letters to the editor, and they are all nice, well-meaning folks doing all the screaming and the yelling.

Our world will be destroyed by our own lack of perspective, our own intolerance, our own strident calls that ‘something must be done about it.’

The world will be destroyed by our own sanctimony.

And the meek, and their heavily-armoured and highly-paid protectors, shall inherit the Earth.

And when that happens, the safest place to be will be behind bars.


Author’s Note. A story like this takes a few hours to compile and write commentary, as well as reading the material, (research) and finding suitable pictures, links, etc.

Regarding the image 'Techno Police 21,' according to Wiki the image is too small and such a low resolution that the income potential of the copyright holder is not infringed by its use.

While the internet is a great equalizer, (and money isn’t everything) the author appreciates your support. To show that support, a reader might make a donation, check out one of my books and stories on Amazon or any other fine online bookstore, leave a rating, write a review, or even just leave a comment, which adds weight and authority to the blog under Google’s new semantic search algorithm.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Louis Shalako.

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