Punch the Robot

Robots are repeatedly damaged or destroyed. The hitchBOT is a well-known example.  But also the security robot K5 has become a victim of attacks several times. The latest case is described in the magazine Wired: “Every day for 10 months, Knightscope K5 patrolled the parking garage across the street from the city hall in Hayward, California. An autonomous security robot, it rolled around by itself, taking video and reading license plates. Locals had complained the garage was dangerous, but K5 seemed to be doing a good job restoring safety. Until the night of August 3, when a stranger came up to K5, knocked it down, and kicked it repeatedly, inflicting serious damage.” (Wired, 29 August 2019) The author investigates the question of whether one may attack robots. Of course you shouldn’t damage other people’s property. But what if the robot is a spy, a data collector, a profile creator? Digital self-defence (which exploits digital as well as analog possibilities) seems to be a proven tool not only in Hong Kong, but also in the US and Europe. The rights of robots that some demand cannot be a serious problem. Robots do not have rights. They feel nothing, they do not suffer, they have no consciousness. “So punch the robot, I tell you! Test the strength of your sociopolitical convictions on this lunk of inorganic matter!” (Wired, 29 August 2019)

The Technological Fight against Mass Shootings

Security technologies are spreading more and more. Some of them, such as the security robot K5, guarantee and destroy security at the same time. Mass shootings such as those in Dayton and El Paso are a particular problem. New tech firms like Athena are offering solutions, as Fast Company reports. “Athena Security uses object-motion detection to spot when an individual brandishes a fireman, and immediately send an alert to their client, whether that’s a private security firm or local law enforcement. The company’s AI object-motion detection is camera agnostic, meaning it can work on any CCTV system. When a gun is detected, the video feed of the active shooter is made available to the client both on mobile devices and desktop computers, allowing officers to know what they are dealing with and where it is happening, all in the space of three seconds …” (Fast Company, 23 August 2019) In fact, technologies are often the only means against technologies. They may also be successful in preventing mass shootings. Another possibility would be to disarm the population – but this would meet with resistance in the USA. Another problem is that this is surveillance technology. Therefore, as with the K5 and other service robots, one thing applies: one form of security is gained, another form of security is lost.

Knightscope’s Fourth Generation K5

Knightscope’s security robots have been on the road in Silicon Valley for years. They can see, hear and smell – and report anything suspicious to a central office. A new generation has emerged from a partnership with Samsung. The monolithic cone has become a piecemeal object. The company writes in its blog: “With its all new, fully suspended drivetrain, the K5v4 is uniquely suited to manage the more aggressive terrain outside Samsung’s Silicon Valley workplace. Since deploying, we have been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a robot guard tour in areas inhibited by speed bumps, while continuing to sweep both of their multi-story parking garages for abandoned vehicles and provide their command center with the additional eyes and ears to provide more security intelligence and improve overall security.” (Knightscope, 16 June 2019) Security robots can certainly be an option in closed areas. When used in public spaces, many ethical questions are raised. However, security robots can do more than security cameras. And it is hard to escape the fourth generation.