Where Inventions, Privacy, and Economics Intersect: R2D2’s Evil Twin

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Robots are the future- and they are already here. Although, the average “joe” may not interact with these human replacements, military personnel, across seas, encounter robots on a daily basis.

 Today, there is a powerful shift in robotic technology for domestic use. In fact, just last Monday, Amazon strategically released their drone delivery concept. Robotic machinery is blending into the average citizens’ everyday life. So should we be worried?

Well that depends…

A company, Knightscope, in California has recently developed a robot called K5 Autonomous Data Machine (this machine is quite remarkable).

Within months of its debut, this security robot has already created quite a ruckus — “R2D2’s evil twin,” to be exact according to Marc Rotenberg, the director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, in Washington, DC.

What makes this robot truly evil? Well…

 The first point is obvious. This device is the NSA’s fantasy; a harmless looking device that collects images and records sound 24/7.

Now, some may say this is awfully Orwellian. Yes, that may be so, but the intentions are good. William Santana Li,  co-founder of the technology company that created K5 Autonomous Data Machine claims that they created this robot “after what happened at Sandy Hook”, based on their assertion that “[we] are never going to have an armed officer in every school”.

School shootings have become more prevalent in the United States over the past few years. There have been 34 shooting events in 1990’s contrasting with 86 shooting events between 2000-2013, according to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Consequently, K5 Autonomous Data Machine was developed to ensure the safety and security of schools, and possibly an alternative to human guards.

But did you catch that second detriment? No? Human Security will be rendered pointless. Is our world becoming so efficient that it is destroying the working middle class?

Yeah, robots are efficient. Yeah, it’s cheap. Yeah, it’s cool and futuristic, and it feels like you are living on Tatooine.

 But this could drastically hurt our economy, on such a large economic scale proving esteemed economist, David Author, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s theory that technology decimates the working class.

In the United States, the Federal minimum wage in $7.25 an hour, while the implementation of K5 would short the American middle class by an entire dollar at a mere $6.25 an hour reported by the Department of Labor.

This also brings up the recurring argument of privacy vs. security. How much is the common citizen going to compromise in order to procure their safety?

However, I am less worried about security than I am more concerned about the dying off of the middle class. At what point do you draw the line? Case and point, robots don’t need to worry about feeding a family.

 At the end of the day, people are going to complain about both sides. Either, there is not enough protection, or it is too invasive. Myself personally? I’m conflicted. As of now, I want to see more of Evil R2D2.

[NY Times]

Featured image courtesy of [littlelostrobot via Flickr]

Zachary Schneider
Zach Schneider is a student at American University and formerly an intern at Law Street Media. Contact Zach at

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