New York: City council should ban the use of armed robots

A member of the New York City Council brings a bill to avoid arming robots. The reason is the “Digidog” that was successfully used in a police operation in New York last month. Although this robot dog was only used for exploration, it is growing loudly in the US Wired the concern for an even greater militarization of the police.

In February of this year, the police in New York once again got a copy of the robot dog “Spot” from Boston Dynamics tested in one place. This is equipped with lamps and cameras, so that people at the control can see its surroundings in real time. Photos and videos of this mission have raised fears of possibly armed robots in the future, despite the purely exploratory purpose. In addition, many are reminded of an episode of the British science fiction series “Black Mirror” with aggressive robot dogs.

Ben Kallos, a member of the New York City Council, wants to forbid arming these robots by law. This would make New York the first law in the United States to prohibit the police from owning and using armed robots. However, Kallos insists Information from Wiredthat it’s all about arming: “I have no problem using a robot to defuse a bomb, but it has to be the right use of a tool and the right circumstances.”

Even if Kallos continues to advocate the unarmed use of robots, according to robotics experts and ethicists, he has taken up concerns about the increasing militarization of the police. For decades, local police authorities in the USA have been able to use decommissioned military equipment. Since 1997, more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies have purchased over $ 7 billion worth of military equipment.

This also includes robots. Over 280 police stations in the US had received robots from the military by 2016. These are in different conditions and, according to an employee, they choose the robots that still work best. President Obama had restricted the choice of devices, but it was reopened under Trump’s successor.

When asked, Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, stated that the company’s terms of service prohibit the attachment of weapons to its robots. “All of our buyers, without exception, must agree that Spot will not be used as a weapon or configured to hold a weapon,” said Playter. “As an industry, we believe that robots will only achieve long-term economic viability if people see robots as helpful and useful tools without worrying about whether they will cause harm.”

Boston Dynamics has been offering the spot for sale since last year for $ 74,500 each (currently around EUR 62,600). For years, the company had only caused a stir with new videos of its impressively agile robots. According to the manufacturer, the robots have already been used in very different places – power plants, nuclear facilities, factories, construction sites and laboratories. The New York Police Department that Spot is now trying out is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. Police in Massachusetts and Hawaii are also testing the Digidog.

“Non-lethal robots could very well turn into deadly ones,” said Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics and Emerging Sciences group at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. One example is the robot that was used to transport a bomb in Dallas in 2016. During an argument with a sniper, local police used a robot to remotely deliver an explosive to the perpetrator, detonate it and kill him. The sniper shot five police officers.


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