Dinner Table Conversation: What Can Robots Do?

January 11, 2018

San Francisco, California, has a curious relationship with technology. The city is close to Silicon Valley (famous for innovation in technology), but some residents aren’t too excited about the overuse of technology and the companies that create it.

The city recently prohibited robots from roaming its streets to deliver food (yes, this actually happened!), and late last year, the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) also faced criticism for its use of robots to roam its parking lot and the block-wide street surrounding its office building. Why? For the SPCA, the robots deterred car break-ins and other crimes that seemed to have emerged from the homeless encampment on nearby streets. The Department of Public Works threatened to fine the SPCA up to $1000 if they did not stop using robots on city sidewalks.

via @Knightscope

Many San Francisco residents were not happy that robots were used to deter crime from happening. Some felt that these robots were taking away jobs that humans should have been doing.

So what happened?

Well, the office received a lot of criticism and “hate mail” from people. As a result, the SPCA stopped using the robots and asked the city of San Francisco to provide better guidance on how to use robotic security systems.

We think every story has multiple sides. What would you do if you were a resident of San Francisco, or if you worked for the Department of Public Works? And what would you do if you were the head of the SPCA?