Sunday, March 18, 2012

The drones are coming, the drones are coming!!

And now the robots can thinkThe robots can think.  In this Slate article, the best, and at the same time most creepy part is the flying robots playing the James Bond Theme.  They look disturbingly like the flying drones in the Terminator movies.  This is not science fiction; this is chillingly real.  The drones are becoming nimble.  They are able to build things.  They work as a unit, designed to figure out strategies to fulfill their missions whether as banal as playing a song to as utilitarian as constructing a building.  

You heard me! Constructing a building. Right now, the drone's building capacity is rudimentary, but that's not going to last long.  Think about the differences between the iPhone 4, 4s and the upcoming 5.  You can practically rule the world with an iPhone and soon, scientists will discover black holes in space and speak to the alien life on the other side; you will easily be able to have a conversation with them because you have a universal translator app.  The point is, the pace of technology is light blindingly fast. These robots will soon be everywhere, doing everything from immigration control to figuring out thru heat seeking sensors whether someone has weed growing in their house.  No -- seriously. It's already been done. They will be everywhere.

Over the last few months, as drones have become easier to make and to buy, they’ve raised privacy alarms. People are using them to monitor traffic, spy on celebrities, take aerial real estate photos, and—thanks to a new federal law that legalizes their flight—almost certainly in a variety of law enforcement missions. The nano drones’ two key features—extreme agility and instant swarming—would seem to raise the stakes in this debate.

After I saw this article, it just so happened that the NPR show, Fresh Air had a show on…you guessed it: drones, and most importantly, how their use will alter the laws of the land.  The guest, John Villasenor, a senior fellow at the Brookings institute, postulates a similar theory: that soon these drones will be everywhere, used for everything. The implications for the law are astonishing.  Here's the part about the weed for all my hemp loving friends out there.

"Now if you take that ruling [the Supreme Court ruled that police officers who used a small single-engine airplane to spot hidden marijuana plants in someone's backyard in California did not violate the Fourth Amendment because they were in "public navigable airspace in a physically non-intrusive manner] and apply it to a world in which there are hundreds or thousands of drones, that obviously gives rise to some very significant concerns," says Villasenor. "If you interpret that ruling by itself, as things stand today, that would certainly suggest that people would have a fair amount of latitude to make observations using drones."
But several rulings involving what can be observed from outside a property to look inside a property may also apply, says Villasenor. He points to the 2001 case Kyllo v. United States, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the use of a thermal imaging device to monitor heat radiated from inside someone's home without a search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment.

"There's a very interesting piece of language in that ruling that when you map it to drones is really interesting," he says. "[It says] 'Where, as here, the government uses a device that is not in general public use to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a search.' One of the interesting phrases in that language is 'not in general public use.' If we fast-forward two or three years from now, when drones are in public use, does that change the legal foundation for what you can and can't observe from the outside of a home that would have been previously unknowable without physical intrusion?"

So not to sound like a broken record but -- again, drones will most likely be hovering EVERYWHERE. Doing EVERYTHING.  You may not see them because they may be too high in the atmosphere to spot, or they will be flying around in SWARMS, doing whatever job we have for them to do.  The laws concerning privacy and habius corpus will change because they will be in continuous use.  Robots that are either flown by a person controlling them in an office or eventually, drones assigned to do tasks that they complete with no human intervention what so ever will be the first choice of photographers, law enforcement, military…shoot, maybe a drone can take my clothes to the dry cleaners.  Drones are already fighting our military and security conflicts. But people are flying and controlling them.  All too soon, they will not need a human to guide them.  And at that point, we might as well give up 'cause we're not talking about I-wanna-be-a-human Isaac Asimov three Robot Laws which protect humanity Data from Star Trek TNG.  We're talking about robots in the image of Terminator's Skynet program.  A program that looks pretty similar, from the outside looking in, to what the military is doing right now.  Bow to our robot overlords everyone. It's only a matter of time.

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