One of the little-reported aspects of the massacre in Dallas is that the shooter, Micah X Johnson, was taken out by a robot which delivered an explosive device to essentially blow him up. Sadly this act did not occur before he shot 12 police officers, five of them fatally. However, the use of a remote control robot to kill a criminal seems to have been unprecedented. On the other hand, the United States has been assassinating terrorists with aerial drones for over a decade.

According to the Atlantic, some people find the idea of someone being taken out by a robot instead of a SWAT sniper to be disturbing.

One hardly knows why. Johnson would be just as dead in either case. The way the Dallas Police Department handled it, none of their officers were put at risk.

The root of the disquiet is probably because the future of such films as “The Terminator” and “Robocop” suddenly seems to be drawing nigh. The military is already developing land-based robots that can accompany infantry and due the really dangerous tasks of soldiers such as walking point and being the first to enter an occupied building. Sooner or later such robots are going to be autonomous, being able to kill or not depending on their programming.

On the one hand, the idea of autonomous robots replacing soldiers and maybe cops raises the specter of them running amok, killing people willy-nilly. On the other hand, robot soldiers or cops will not be subject to emotions such as fear and anger. Robocop cannot be accused of racially profiling a suspect with any credibility.

The whole point of the protest in Dallas that ended so horrifically is the wide-spread belief that police officers are somehow targeting African Americans and are more likely to arrest or even kill them than if the suspects were white.

The notion is no doubt exaggerated. Very few police encounters with civilians end with deadly force. However, policing is made difficult if part of the community believes that they are being treated unfairly by law enforcement.

Perhaps robot police will become part of the solution rather than the problem. They can be sent into dangerous situations and will be better able to resolve them without resort to deadly force.

If deadly force is required, a robot will be able to deliver it quickly and dispassionately. No question could be raised about bias or profiling in such a case.

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