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Archive for March 8th, 2008

The story about an Atlanta citizen’s self built and deployed “robocop” is a great example in our culture of us lacking a way to talk about behavior.

This story is rich with very clear behaviors and selection by consequences. A great situation to analyze because of its clarity in the details and its implications for public policy, policing, homeless, vigilante law, and robot aids.

Behaviors:

  • robot patrol
  • drug dealing
  • prostitution
  • drug use
  • urinating/defecating
  •  water spraying
  • load speaker
  • roaming

“Genetics”/Biology/History (non environmental aspects of the people):

  • drug addiction?
  • illness?
  • STD?
  • drunk/high?
  • no money
  • been in jail before?
  • citizen?
  • worker?
  • parent?

Environment:

  • late night
  • bar nearby
  • homeless shelter
  • day care center
  • playground
  • downtown Atlanta
  • weather
  • patrol precinct
  • nearby housing
  • pass-through traffic

Reinforcers and Schedule Setting:

  • robot patrol times
  • day care time
  • drug dealer visits
  • when security guard leaves each night
  • police patrols
  • bar closing/opening
  • Color, shape, logo on robot
  • robot size
  • traffic

Consequences:

  • Humiliation
  • Cold water spray
  • Identification
  • Space reduction
  • Assault

So…

If it’s effective at reducing unwanted behaviors (drug dealing, drug use, littering, spreading disease), is this a good public policy?  Is the use of robots to do what our law enforcement doesn’t do for budget or other reasons how we want to alter behaviors?

Will the homeless, drug dealers and other perps habituate to it knowing the robot can’t really do anything? Is threat of arrest an effective reinforcer consider the robot can’t enforce that consequence?  What new behaviors has this generated?  Who should be the one deciding whether a crime might be commited so you should annoy someone/spray someone with the robot? How do you avoid “Minority Report” style crime prevention or do we value prevention of crime that much?

What do the people of this neighborhood value? What does the builder of the robot value? What do the homeless and drug dealers value?

So many questions!

As more cameras, robotic watch dogs and automation enter our citizenship we’re going to need to understand what is going on in these situations.   We lack an analysis strategy in public policy for figuring this out.  It’s an elephant in the room at all levels of government – wiretapping, patriot act, police cams, metal detectors at schools, airport security, social profiling.

Here’s our public policy statement from the article:

Police Major Lane Hagin says the robot is definitely a different crime-fighting idea. “There’s no problem with the robot going up and down the street or being visible or any of the other things it does — with the exception of spraying water on people.”

Hagin adds, “Then, it becomes an assault no matter where it happens.”

If the perps know this, and they do, the effect of the robot is what? and its legally OK to have a private robot patrolling the streets?  Really?

~Russ

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