Not many, at least in 1987, had though that the 1987 cyberpunk movie, Robocop, would one day be reality. While we are still far away from that—present day robots do not have the conscience that the reel life Robocop did—Dubai on Thursday rolled out a fully functional robots law-keepers onto its street. The wheeled-robots are equipped with camera and facial recognition software to compare faces against police database. Moreover, they are also interactive—people can verbally report crimes to one of these robots. Although only in the experimentation stage, this PAL-Robotics designed machine, if successful, will replace 25% of the city’s police force. But Dubai is not the only city to have introduced a robot, China last year introduced its own version of a robocop laced with similar features. Additionally, they were equipped for riot control functions. As countries and cities become ‘smarter’ in the digital and artificial intelligence sense, it shouldn’t be a surprise seeing ready adoption of these robocops across the world.
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What though queers the pitch is whether a robocop can ever be equipped with the same emotional intelligence that a human cop is likely to display. Also, would such induction kick off a robot-race amongst nations, where countries would graduate from having a robot police force to having a robot military. One manifestation of this are drone attacks that have become fairly common in recent years. With pace of technology adoption uneven, nations with human military are going to be at a disadvantage if this kind of warfare becomes common for other nations. If movies offer a glimpse of what the future could be like, the hope can only be that real world consequences of robot cops and army are more like Robocop rather than Terminator.