John Markoff’s recent article, Night Watchman with Wheels, describes the founding of Knightscope in Silicon Valley- a company started in reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre- to create a sensor-laden robot that provides security in public/private spaces. The article is worth reading because it identifies several issues at the heart of how robots can change society: technology displacing human labor; crime prediction and behavioral mining; robot-cloud connections; pervasive surveillance.
For instance, by charging $6.25 an hour for the robot’s services, Knightscope is explicitly targeting a cost point below California’s minimum wage of $8/hour, and this piques the interest of those who consider the displacement economics of robots and lower class employees (never mind the middle class). But what I found also fascinating echoed a sentiment in Robot Futures, where I explain that robots will glue the digital and physical worlds together so seamlessly that, when you run into a robot on the sidewalk, it will have vast knowledge about you available thanks to its interconnections to the Cloud. In the article, Markoff explains that the companies plans to create a big data portal for the robots in order to recognize faces, license plates and other physical embodiments with digital signatures. So, indeed, we are on a track to robots that know far more about us than we know about them. Welcome to a new version of inequity.