The SPCA is an organization that is supposed to help animals. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has roots that date as far back as 1824, England, and as a front-and-center organization that serves a particular function in society, in this case operating shelters for animals, they are bound to not be of the best moral persuasion.

The San Francisco SPCA recently made headlines after hiring a “security robot” to scare away homeless people and prevent them from setting up tents near their building.

The robot is a snitch on wheels, using sensors and lasers to “monitor an area for criminal activity.” It alerts the police if it sees something.

Video of the robot in action recently went viral.

Is that noise being made by the machine? If so, it would seem as if they are trying to scare the mentally ill people who roam the street in particular.

In a densely populated area like San Francisco, it isn’t easy for the homeless to find a decent place to sleep. The mentally ill and severely drug addicted roam the streets, as is the scene in many American cities.

Worse, autonomous state protecting robots are being deployed in other places around San Francisco. According to Business Insider, they “are used to patrol parking lots, sports arenas, and tech company campuses are now being deployed to keep away homeless people.”

Surprisingly the City of San Francisco didn’t take kindly to the robotic homeless scarecrows, as they demanded the SF SPCA to remove its robots from the streets or face a fine of up to $1,000 a day.

After that, they took the robots off the street.

A company called Knightscope actually rents out the robots for $7 an hour: less than the cost of hiring a security guard, of course. They serve over 19 clients across the US, including Microsoft, Uber, and Juniper Networks.

According to Business Insider:

Preventing crime is part of the pitch that Knightscope makes to prospective customers. (Increased police presence can reduce crime, though this is not always the case.)

The K9 robot circling the SF SPCA has drawn mixed responses. Within the first week of the robot’s deployment, some people who were setting up a homeless encampment nearby allegedly “put a tarp over it, knocked it over, and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors,” according to Jennifer Scarlett, president of the SF SPCA. A Twitter user reported seeing faeces smeared on the robot.”

So corporate paid RoboSnitches are already on the street, and they look like this.

Business Insider/Knightscope.

How long until robotic law enforcement that looks like this is on the loose?

It seems 2017 will be remembered with a theme of crossing the threshold when it comes to new technology becoming commonplace. From taxi drones, to people genetically modifying themselves, the skies being sprayed with colorful toxic metals to genetically engineered mosquitoes being released all over America, we’re starting to really cross a line in history.

For some perspective on how advanced robotics have become, take a look at these videos.

 


Featured image: Business Insider/Knightscope.