Dystopia Arrives in San Francisco, Authorities Introduce Policy Granting Robots a License to Kill

Although I am hesitant to draw comparisons with George Orwell’s dystopian vision of a future totalitarian government in “1984” while writing about today’s America, which term is more appropriate when dystopia finally arrives? This is true if you think about killer robots taking out people on the streets.

The San Francisco Police Department submitted a proposal to the city, which is expected to be approved on Nov 29. It would allow robots to use deadly force against suspects that threaten the lives or property of citizens or officers, with no less than military-style weapons.

While I agree with the idea that a bad guy with guns can only be stopped by a good one with a gun — but maybe that’s just me — the notion of robots with military-style weapons that kill human beings seems a little creepy and Orwellian. Mission Local reported that the draft policy is:

Robots will not be used to kill if the risk to the public or officers is imminent.

The draft was unanimously approved by San Francisco’s rules committee last week. It will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Nov 29th. It is likely that it will pass. The Board will have to approve any purchase of new military-style equipment. However, the police can replace existing equipment worth up to $10 million without approval.

Tiffany Myer, a senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Commitment for Civil Rights in San Francisco Bay Area, stated in an email that the policy was not standard and that citizens and legal professionals should reject it.

In a dystopian future, we are debating whether robots could be used to execute citizens without trial, jury, or judgment. This is not normal behavior for any legal professional or common resident.

This seems a little absurd to me, considering that an officer in the exact same situation as the one outlined earlier would make the same deadly force decisions — or would they? Jennifer Tu, a fellow at the American Friends Service Committee seems to disagree.

It is very different to hurt someone directly in front of you than to hurt someone via a screen.

The SFPD currently has 17 fully functioning robots. Robert Rueca, a spokesperson for the police said that they have not been used to attack anyone. This is about to change. It will only take a matter-of-fact moment before a robot identifies a suspect and executes the policy as approved.

Hell, let’s extrapolate. Is it possible for deadly robots to patrol the streets of crime-ridden cities in America? Is that a good or bad thing? There are many questions.

San Francisco and its citizens will likely make a huge step forward on November 29. Or would it be backward? It will be all the way to 1984 by George Orwell.