January 16, 2014
Our Surveilled and Monitored Future

This article "Tiny robots to prowl US-Mexico border's dark drug tunnels" fits a larger pattern: all manner of surveillance and monitoring robots will be developed and deployed. How many of the places where it is possible to break a law or rule today will become so monitored by computers in the future that such rule-breaking will become impossible?

Knightscope's robot watchman, the K5 Autonomous Data Machine, fits this pattern as well.

Think of how many security guards sit at a front desk of an office building or warehouse watching video cameras stationed throughout a building. With internet bandwidth so cheap the security workers do not even have to be in the same building or even the same town or country. But add really powerful image processing and more types of sensors (e.g. motions sensors) and most of the monitoring will be done by computers. The monitoring will be far cheaper than using human security guards and therefore will be far more extensive.

Suppose you are walking down a city street 20 or 30 years from now. You feel scared at some people you see approaching. What to do? Tell your smartphone to send a signal to turn on heightened surveillance for all the cameras trained in the area you are walking. Computers in big data centers will start doing heavy processing on all the video and audio feeds near you and will even go back some minutes and track back everyone near you and identify and assess their risk to you.

If a signal comes back that your risk from approaching people is substantial then police or private security could be dispatched in your direction. But even better: an autonomous vehicle could activate and from a few blocks away race to go up to you so you can get in and get whisked to safety.

Another alternative: a nearby building could open a door for you and lock if after you enter into a safe area.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 January 16 08:56 PM 

Justin said at January 17, 2014 6:26 AM:

If the people who are after you also control the surveillance network, you are in trouble. We should not be naive about the benevolence of the monitor class. Your best bet is to control your own surveillance and at the same time to pack a powerful punch if needed.

Trust is a valuable commodity, and we must economize it.

Tim Hogan said at January 17, 2014 8:24 AM:

Hollywood continues to miss the script where dumb AI slowly and inexorably enthralls us all (after the smiles fade a bit) and if it stops short of thralldom it will at least be a much tighter cocoon than it is now. Notice that each advance in monitoring and sensor deployment is way under the excitement level to interest script writers - as to the real effects on society. The speed is slow enough to script the scripters - "enscription", one of those words that should exist but doesn't. What are those types of words called again?

The only way to make it more visible is to speed it up. How about an amusement park where all the current and foreseeable means of monitoring and control are there for your entertainment for a day pass? Kind of like THX1138-land but the voltage on the cattle prods is remotely programmable by the visitors.

James Bowery said at January 17, 2014 10:15 AM:

The monitoring programs will have legal requirements to ignore certain attributes of the threats, such as race. Indeed, affirmative action programming to "fight stereotypes" will be mandated.

In other words, the monitoring system will be making sure you are vulnerable to attack from real threats as compensation for "institutional racism".

coolball said at January 17, 2014 8:28 PM:

Increased automated monitoring is a double edged sword, on the one hand you get potentially increased security on the other if collated say goodbye to privacy.

Rush said at January 20, 2014 1:05 PM:

This future app would be particularly helpful to aid colorblind individuals.

Paul Hughes said at January 23, 2014 12:50 AM:

I've written how a much better and equal society can be created by turning/co-opt in this surveillance into decentralized sousveillance -http://enthea.org/writing/innovating-our-way-to-a-peaceful-and-liberating-anarchy/

Paul Hughes said at January 23, 2014 12:51 AM:

I've written how a much better and equal society can be created by turning/co-opt in this surveillance into decentralized sousveillance -http://enthea.org/writing/innovating-our-way-to-a-peaceful-and-liberating-anarchy/

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