Robot Phalanx

Robots Harass the Homeless in San Francisco

Are we all living in a bad science fiction movie? In the latest episode of what may be incipient “robot wars,” the SPCA in San Francisco had hired robots to keep homeless individuals away from their facility under the pretense of “crime prevention.” The robots, from security startup Knightscope, have four cameras and roust anyone not on a pre-approved list. At $6 an hour, they are less expensive than human security guards; however, their deployment created a backlash. According to some reports, the robots drew overwhelmingly negative responses from city residents, pedestrians, and Walk SF, an advocacy group that successfully promoted a ban on food delivery robots in the city. Silicon Valley game developer and Congressional candidate Brianna Wu tweeted, “I’m sorry for being so frank but this absolutely disgusts me as someone that experienced homelessness.” As a result of the public outcry, the robots were fired. —TV

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