The US Division of Homeland Safety (DHS) has announced plans to deploy dystopian robot dogs alongside america border with Mexico, an space the place residents already dwell beneath intense surveillance. Developed by Philadelphia-based firm Ghost Robotics, the canines can transmit real-time video and different information to human operators and are in a position to traverse rocky and hilly terrain. In response to the DHS, the purpose is to scale back human publicity to life-threatening hazards whereas multiplying U.S. Customs and Border Safety presence within the space.
“The southern border will be an inhospitable place for man or beast, and that’s precisely why a machine might excel there,” says DHS Science and Know-how Directorate program supervisor Brenda Lengthy.
The machines are 100-pound quadrupeds with an array of built-in cameras: 360-degree, thermal, evening imaginative and prescient, zoom, and extra. Sensors detect chemical, organic, radiological, and nuclear threats. The robotic can even carry as much as 20 kilos price of payload, and whereas the DHS doesn’t explicitly state as a lot, it seems like that might embrace weaponry. These machines are already able to being armed sentries. Final yr, Ghost Robotics unveiled a version of its robot dogs equipped with long-range guns that may hit targets as much as 1,200 meters away.
When you assume this seems like one thing straight out of Black Mirror, you’re precisely proper. Episode 5 of collection 4, entitled “Metalhead,” featured a really related four-legged robotic participating in a terrifying single-minded chase of a lady making an attempt to flee after an unexplained societal collapse. However we don’t even want pessimistic science fiction to think about what the presence of such robots may result in alongside the two,000-mile stretch of US-Mexico border.
The federal government chooses to painting the deployment of those machines in a cutesy, lighthearted vogue. In a characteristic article in regards to the venture, the robots are repeatedly known as “Fido,” “man’s finest buddy,” and “programmable pooches.” DHS says the robots can be most useful in stopping drug-related crime, human trafficking, firearm smuggling, and even the transport of weapons of mass destruction. However by far, the most typical legislation enforcement-related exercise alongside the border is the apprehension of migrants, who’re virtually at all times unarmed. Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 1.7 million people suspected of crossing the border illegally in 2021 alone.
The utilization of those robot dogs gained’t be restricted to the border sooner or later. DHS overtly states that they may come in useful in locations like “cities, cities, or ports” the place brokers may face harmful circumstances. Like different army applied sciences, they’re additionally making their manner into the arms of police. Final yr, the New York Metropolis police division leased a robot dog by Boston Dynamics for $94,000, and used it to defuse a hostage situation in the Bronx. Its presence raised such intense backlash among the many public, the division returned the canine to the producer.
“You possibly can’t give me a dwelling wage, you may’t increase a minimal wage, you may’t give me reasonably priced housing; I’m working onerous and I can’t receives a commission depart, I can’t get reasonably priced little one care,” Consultant Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat representing components of the Bronx and Westchester County, stated in a video posted to Twitter. “As a substitute, we acquired cash, taxpayer cash, going to robotic canines?”
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