American schoolchildren were supposed to protect the stun guns. But the manufacturer eventually changed his mind about the dystopian future

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Not much was missing and American schoolchildren could have a very dystopian future. Axon, a company developing weapon systems for the military and police, wanted to protect students during their schooling with special drones equipped with stun guns and an aiming system based on artificial intelligence. But once she came up with the idea, most of her ethics committee resigned in protest.

Unlike the rest of the world, America often experiences mass shooting in schools. The debate over how serious this problem is has sparked again in recent days after a gunman in the Texas town of Uvalde murdered 19 children and two adults at the end of May.

There are many ideas in this area about how to prevent these tragedies, and Axon wanted to call technology to help. The company has been flirting with drones equipped with stun guns since 2016, when it planned to sell them to the police, so it just dusted off the project and introduced a proposal for a “school watch drone”.

Smart drones connected to cameras

In the case of the shooting in Uvalde, the fact that the police did not intervene against the perpetrator quickly enough is currently being intensively addressed. According to Reuters, Axon director Rick Smith intended that the drones would be placed literally in school corridors and could fly through the classrooms through ventilation.

The drones would be supplemented by the entire IT system from Axon, where the helicopters would be connected to the channels in the school security cameras. This system would automatically be able to identify if someone was not going to shoot using artificial intelligence and apparently person recognition technology. It would send a warning, which the human operator would then have to assess to avoid any mistakes.

In the end, this operator would decide whether to activate the stun guns against the attacker. However, helicopters would also be equipped with an automatic targeting algorithm to “hit” quickly and accurately, as Smith described.

In other words, schoolchildren would be constantly monitored due to the risk of attack and would still go to school next to drones with stun guns. Axon saw this as a better solution than waiting for the police to arrive in the event of a crisis – according to the company, drones would be able to neutralize the attacker within 60 seconds. The school system would cost $ 1,000 a year and come to market as early as 2024.

The whole vision of the “guard drones” is described in a comic book called The End of Killing, written by Smith. You can find it here.

Unethical and solves nothing, the committee said

The idea aroused a lot of emotions, but most in the company itself. The project was mainly supported by the director, but the Committee on Ethical Issues in Artificial Intelligence distanced itself from it. Nine of its twelve members decided to resign and wrote a letter explaining why similar school drones were not a good idea.

They admit that they supported the initial announcement because they were shocked by the shooting in Uvald, but later realized that Axon had not resolved the ethical side of the matter and that the company would contribute to the rebirth of America into a police state.

In addition, board members argue that the system would be exploitable, pointing to the fact that monitoring systems of this type disadvantage minorities. “Stunts with stun guns have no real chance of solving the problem of mass shootings, although Axon says so. Only this keeps the company from looking for real solutions to this tragic problem, “the letter reads. They also accuse the company of trying to make money on misfortune.

Smith didn’t react for a while, but announced for a few days that Axon would not eventually produce drones, and began arguing that he only wanted to open a debate.

This is not the first time he has backed down. In 2019, he promised that Axon police cameras would not be equipped with facial recognition technology, as people also complained about them. The company supplies equipment to approximately 17,000 police forces out of a total of 18,000 in the United States.



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