16 December 2017, 20:56
The future is here – it arrived shiny and new and white and whizzed about silently on wheels.
In about ten minutes flat, it was a dirty brown, broken and rolling about helplessly on its back.
If you think that police robots only exist in the imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters, you are wrong.
RoboCop isn't science fiction, it is science fact.
It might not come out with witty apercus like “Your move creep” or “Dead or alive, you're coming with me” but it is out there and patrolling a facility near you, if you live in San Francisco.
The home of the counterculture and the most liberal city in America since the California Gold Rush turned it from a small, sleepy hamlet into a throbbing hive of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells, San Francisco is the unlikely early adopter of a technology that seems at odds with everything it stands for.
The Knightscope K5 security robot is a 400-pound machine that looks like something out of a Star Wars film.
It does not possess guns or lasers (yet) but it does have four cameras to monitor its surroundings, can move its little wheels at up to three miles an hour and is as tall as a small person and as wide as a large one.
It was deployed in San Francisco to deter loitering near a building.
Guess which organisation put it there.
You are probably thinking that it was bound to have been some evil entity like a cigarette company, or a weapons manufacturer.
Perhaps a shady hedge fund wanted to maintain its secrecy?
Would it help if I explained that the purpose of the robot was specifically to stop homeless people from sheltering near the building?
That's right! It was the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I am not making that up.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has used all its empathy on our furry, four legged friends and has none left for those earth dwellers that walk upright and do not have a roof to call their own.
They will rush to the scene of a puppy in distress but would rather you did not approach if you are a person in the same predicament.
This did not go down well with the do-gooder hippies in San Francisco.
Instead of getting even, the locals got angry. And then they got even.
The bright white vision of the future had its sensors covered with the first thing to hand, which was barbecue sauce.
San Franciscans never leave the house without a large supply, in case they want to baste a sausage, or teach the future a lesson.
They then knocked it over, like R2D2, and smeared it with faeces. Where they got the faeces from I do not know, but you might want to think twice before annoying anyone from the City by the Bay.
To cover its shame, K9 was then covered with a tarpaulin and left to think about what it had done.
If the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had spent the same amount that it took to develop a Homeless Person Deterrent Droid on a shelter for the homeless, then everyone would have been happy, especially the robot, which would still be bright and white and working.
It is not the first time that K5 has been embroiled in controversy.
It knocked a toddler over in Silicon Valley, and fell into a pond in Washington DC after missing a set of stairs.
The future is robots and the robots are drunk.
What could possibly go wrong?