Recent news on the robot dubbed K9 brings up questions on the practicality of some of the uses of robots we are seeing. This particular robot has been used to patrol the area around the San Francisco offices of the SPCA. The main selling point the SPCA uses when asked why it is replacing human security guards, is the cost. It costs roughly 60% less to utilize the robot than a human. Reports of vandalism, break-ins and other small crimes to the SPCA drops when using the robot, but they also drop when using a human as well. From that, we get the explanation that a human cannot report such crimes in as timely a fashion as a robot can.
This has all come about because the area of town in question is rife with homelessness. This is the main reason for security and every company in existence looks for ways to decrease their overhead costs. In this day and age, security is considered overhead, and robots can be made just for that function. But if the main reason stated for using a robot vs. a human is that it can relay pertinent information faster, two questions need to be answered.
One, how does the quicker relay of information ultimately deter individuals from committing crimes?
And secondly, if the deterrent is realized, does that justify the 60% savings?
More math would be needed to calculate that one, but chances are the answer would be no. Robots cannot stop a crime from happening, whereas a human can. In addition, it is more cost effective to stop a crime than spend money fixing the result of that crime. We all know that technology is ever-advancing and it will play a larger part in our society whether we like it or not. We just need to keep in mind that practicality should always trump using technology simply for the sake of it.