On Wednesday, May 24, Dubai will launch a new police robot that marks the first phase of the integration of robots into the police force. This modified version of the REEM robot (Designed by PAL robotics and unveiled in 2011) is capable of feeding video to a command center, forwarding reported crimes to police, settling fines, facial recognition, and speaking nine languages. It will operate at most malls and tourist attractions.
Dubai hopes robots will constitute 25 percent of its police force by 2030, with the next stage being to use them as receptionists in police stations. Brigadier Khalid Nasser Alrazooqi, General Director of Dubai Police’s Smart Services Department, told CNN that they eventually want to release a “fully-functional robot that can work as [a] normal police officer.”
Robotic police officers or soldiers are old sci-fi idea, but they are becoming more and more of a reality. In February, China started using the AnBot that uses facial recognition to identify criminals and is capable of following them until the police arrive. The Russian robot, Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (FEDOR), has prompted comparisons to Robocop when a video showed it shooting with deadly accuracy, lifting dumbbells, and walking.
The biggest ethical concern raised by these developments concerns who is culpable if a robot makes the wrong decision and hurts someone in a criminal situation. Elon Musk, Steven Hawking, and other prolific scientists have identified AI as a serious existential risk, arguing that robots should never be allowed to kill people.
Alan Winfield, professor of robot ethics at the University of West England, writes about this issue on his Blog. “The problem is that you can’t make a machine responsible for its mistakes,” Winfeild said in an interview with CNN. “How do you punish it? How do you sanction it? You can’t.”
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