Sunday, July 10, 2016

Anyone Order a Bomb?

      Thursday ’s lawful and peaceful #blacklivesmatter demonstration in Dallas marked a technical ‘advance’ in policing of lawful peaceful demonstrations. After watching this from my safe perch in the Santa Ana Mountains I am not sure we want to continue on this path in the use of violence. I am bothered by the use of the robot-delivered bomb by DPD to end the violence. I certainly believe that the shooter certainly did a terrible deed many times over and he really have been prosecuted.. I just wonder about the method used to bring him to heel. I am not dismayed that the guy is dead. I wish he had survived so he could be tried for the crimes the government would have alleged against him had he survived. I would not have been upset if he had been killed by a sniper with what is essentially a hunting rifle. Given what the shooter was up to i.e. killing people, pitting sniper against sniper seems a reasonably tailored use of deadly force to end the ongoing situation.

      But the means of delivery of deadly force was quite unusual. Essentially the government built an IED an Improvised Explosive Device. They called Amazon and had it delivered by drone to the intended target. Well it really wasn’t a drone because it was land based and as far as I know Amazon wasn’t involved. But that doesn’t change the fact that they sent the fellow the bomb via a robot. People in Dallas were terrified and I don’t blame them. I don’t live in Dallas so I wasn’t terrified per se. To me the massacre was “another one just like the other one.” The other one having occurred only days before. There is a pattern emerging, gun violence is happening on a weekly basis. More people are getting guns and more people are dying. Is that connection so hard for us to make and understand? Okay let’s put that issue aside and let me try to explain why and on what levels the use of the robot bothers me.

      Let me state initially that I am a science fiction buff. So when I heard that they used a robot to deliver the bomb my ears stood up in coyote fashion. Robots were the cool thing of science fiction. The genre deals with weighty issues. One of the early and oft repeated issues getting the attention of scfi authors was the then infant science of robotics. Scifi’s fascination with robotics finally culminated in the perfect android, Lt Cdr Data of the StarTrek franchise. Along the way scifi authors created a code of conduct that bound that nascent science and the robots it created. The problem the roboticists was basically how do you prevent something smarter and stronger than you from taking over the society and even exterminating or enslaving that society?. The solution that developed in the literature pretty much said robots had to do what their human masters told them. This was subject to the overriding rule that no robot could ever cause harm to a human being under any circumstances whatsoever. This was the prime directive of robotics.
      The use of the robot-delivered bomb in Dallas certainly violated that prime directive that the robot must never harm a human being. When it did what it was told to do, deliver the bomb it killed the shooter pretty much by splattering him up against wall. That was certainly a violent act. I don’t think there can be much serious argument about that. That’s what IEDs do. Perhaps that’s the issue I am dealing with. The technology of robotics has developed to the point that it is no longer necessary to kill the malefactor with a rifle or a robot. Just recently I read a note about a similar robot being used to deliver sleepy time gases to a fellow barricading himself. He was gassed with the robot, he went sleepy time and was captured. Well now that seems like a good outcome to me. We get to put the alleged malefactor on trial to see if we can punish him. We could let his guilt be decided by the conscience of the community a petit jury. Speaking as a lawyer that is the preferred outcome of these things.

      It’s been reported that the Dallas PD obtained the robot from the US defense department under a program through which surplus or outmoded military physical assets are released on favorable terms to local law enforcement. That program is a major factor in the increased militarization of local law enforcement agencies. Militarization of local law enforcement is a big issue in large metropolitan areas such as Dallas. Law enforcement in that context acts like an occupying army in those cities which have had their police departments militarized. The government assures us the robot was not intended to be an anti-personnel asset. Somehow that assurance isn’t very comforting to me or I think to the people of Dallas or any large city.
      Now this morning the malefactor is dead and the area sanitized so that no one will remember any of this in the coming weeks or months until we are visited by another malefactor. We have to decide what to do about all this before it is too late. There are those who offer “thoughts and prayers” which of course do nothing to solve the problem of violence and America’s first choice to remedy violence. Something else that does nothing except create more violence are the ridiculously insane calls for more guns. More guns as we have seen means more death and destruction. It is time to deal with this nonsense and put it to rest.


  1. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the robot who almost certainly laid down his life to protect others.

    1. Actually Andrew the robot was not advertised as a single-use delivery system. I suspect it survived to fight another day.

  2. I wonder if they believed he was wearing a bomb and that it would detonate if they shot him. I know that he continued to randomly fire his weapon during "negotiations". Use of the robot was surreal.

  3. Use of robot? Hey, it's Texas. Opens a lot of doors, doesn't it? I'm glad your blog is back!