Robocop Here We Come

Strypey comments on the latest development from our favourite "non-lethal" weapons company Taser International - an autonomous robot with a built-in stun gun. New Scientist magazine has published an article about Taser International's plans to equip PackBot robots that already carry guns for military use with TASERS so they can be used as police. In the 90s we faced testosterone-drenched cops in black stormtroopers uniforms during protests against corporate globalization. Now it seems we are about to transition from Star Wars to Robocop. For those who never had the pleasure of this excellent piece of sci-fi satire, Robocop was basically the story of a flesh and blood policeman turned into an emotionless cyborg enforcer after being horrifically disfigured by a gang of hoods. The authoritarian belief in the disposability of humanity is brilliantly summed up in the transformation scene where one surgeon says he thinks he can save one of the cop's arms and the project leader says to cut it off. There are even little culture jam style adverts for futuristic products like mechanical hearts inserted into the film. It's a hoot! Anyway the PackBot remind me of ED209, the brainless mechanical drone that instructed people to put their weapons down and then proceeded to tenderize them with a pair of chain-fed gattling guns even when they did. If we can't trust flesh and blood cops not to TASER someone for trying to stop a fight, what sort of faith can we have in a robots ability to distinguish who is a dangerously unbalanced person requiring electronic sedation and who is not? How can we have any faith it its ability to ensure it doesn't use its TASER in a way that causes permanent damage? As always this brings up the perennial paradox that underlies the institution of policing - who polices the police? Who polices them?

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