The incident on August 3, though, was not a case of poking around. Though the identity of the assailant remains unknown, video captured just before K5 crashed to the concrete shows a blurry image of a young person with dark hair running past the camera. This was likely premeditated.
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In a drunk man attacked a K5 in a Mountain View parking lot. A few months later a group of angry protestors in San Francisco covered another one in a tarp, pushed it to the ground, and smeared barbecue sauce on it.
Stephens did specify that Knightscope prosecutes "to the fullest extent of the law," often pursuing felony charges for damaged K5s. A brief history of humans and robots bears this out. Children bully them. Philadelphians behead them. In one incident, office workers bullied an HR chatbot so terribly that management wondered if the workers should be fired. Humans are mean to robots. The question is: Do we care? Quite right.
The vandalism of security cameras rarely piques my curiosity. Because K5 is not a friendly robot, even if the cutesy blue lights are meant to telegraph that it is. While Knightscope owns the robots and leases them to clients, the clients own the data K5 collects. They can store it as long as they want and analyze it however they want.
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K5 is an unregulated security camera on wheels, a 21st-century panopticon. Stephens likens it to a police car sitting on the side of the road: It makes everyone hyperaware of their surroundings. The debate over the proper treatment of robots can sometimes sound like the debate over violent videogames. Perhaps acting on violent impulses without hurting real-life humans is healthy, cathartic.
Who is it suitable for?
Or it might be turning us into a race of psychopaths. In the case of K5 bots, they intrude, without permission, into the most mundane of activities: walking down the sidewalk, parking your car.
As a part of our real world, K5 is also a part of the real and messy ethical conundrums that come along with living. Is it OK to punch a Nazi? Blanket no-punching policies are useless in a world full of terrible people with even worse ideas. Robots, like people, are not all the same. So punch the robot, I tell you! Test the strength of your sociopolitical convictions on this lunk of inorganic matter!
It is a sham, an ersatz impression of power that should be pushed to its limits—right down onto the hard parking lot floor. Related Stories.
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