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The NYPD’s New Robot Dogs

You Heard That Right, The Police Has Robot Dogs Now

The New York Police Department recently acquired several robot dogs from Boston Dynamics and deployed them on the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx as patrol units. These robots are not weaponized and are controlled by police officers from remote locations. In a country where the police are known to be violent and brutal to their citizens with seemingly minimal repercussions, the implementation of robot dogs as part of the police force only raises more questions and concerns.

While the company producing the robots, Boston Dynamics, insisted that the robot dogs will never be weaponized, a political art designer MSCHF showcased how easy it was to weaponize these robots by utilizing one of the commercially available robots from the company, Spot. They attached a paintball gun to its top and made it aim and take fire remotely at a few paintings. A police-operated robot dog is certainly terrifying, and even if it is not weaponized, it dehumanizes the interaction between the people and the authorities, potentially leading to further animosity in an already unstable social balance. 

Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot at a Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo: Harry Murphy)

Many have called this move akin to the introduction of weaponized drones in the Middle East, fearing how these initially harmless surveillance robots could eventually be turned into weapons of dehumanized violence and lethal force. Proving this concept further, an operator of the robots at the NYPD commented how the experience was no different from playing a videogame. However, the source of the complaints is not just about the robots themselves, but where they have been deployed. Seemingly only targeting major African American communities in New York City such as Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, these robots are a subject of controversy, bringing to question the intentions of the police forces using them, and the messages that these actions are conveying to these communities.

This may be a familiar story for those who have read Fahrenheit 451, where the firefighters used “mechanical hounds” to hunt down and sedate fugitives in order to ease capture. While people can only hope that the situation does not escalate to that point, it is rather concerning that the NYPD has already taken the first step towards a similar dystopian future.

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