02 Sep 2015
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In real life: Rise of the machines

By Patrick Pilcher

Sometimes real life has a habit of mimicking Hollywood. Recent events however, could signal the chilling beginning of a robopocalypse that’d even make Arnold Schwarzenegger proud.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen Schwarzenegger playing a terminator android in at least one of the Terminator movies. Aside from propelling James Cameron into the spotlight as one of Hollywood’s leading film-makers, the Terminator franchise also paints a bleak future where machines wage war against humanity.

Having seen Cameron’s take on this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that people may have realised mixing robots with guns will probably going to end badly. 

Unfortunately not. 

A new law just passed will soon see North Dakota becoming first US state to use armed law enforcement drones.

While they may not be as terrifying as the hunter-killer machines of Terminator fame, the drones will be equipped with non-lethal weapons including tear gas, rubber bullets, beanbags, pepper spray and Tasers.

Like a lot of potential technology mishaps waiting to happen, the rationale for armed police drones sounds compelling.

Liberal gun laws mean a lot of police are forced to put themselves in harms way. Replacing a shot up drone is significantly easier and possibly far cheaper than recruiting, training and employing humans to be cops.

As logical as that may sound, consider this: Large numbers of people that have been killed by so-called non-lethal weapons. Tasers have already killed a sizeable number of people, and as proven by the Mythbusters, pepper spray and tasers can be a highly flammable mix.  

Thankfully over the short term, armed drones will be under the control of a human operator - at least until a sufficiently advanced AI decides that humans are surplus to requirement.

You may chuckle at this, but PBS have just recorded an interview with the android built to resemble science fiction writer, Phillip K Dick for the Nova science show. During the interview, the android told the interviewer it’d keep him in a “people zoo” (check out the interview here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIWWLg4wLEY#action=share).  

Thankfully the Philip K Dick android has yet to be connected to any nuclear armaments (or armed police drones), but one thing is certain, our future robotic overlords could be saying “Asta La Vista Baby” sooner than you’d think.

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