A few years back, it was, when I saw my first video of a robo-dog. I don’t mean the cute ones that you might fool yourself into thinking, on an off day, might be a real mammal. I mean the bare-bones, mean-looking robot kind. If was, of course, being developed by military contractors. Then just days ago I saw something truly frightening. In a video from China, one of these robo-dogs with an assault rifle and a ton of sensors mounted on it, was remotely air dropped by a drone and began policing the area. Knowing that fleets (I’m not sure that’s the right word) of thousands of drones have been coordinated for entertainment purposes, and aware of how much money and tech militaries have, well, let’s just say nightmares aren’t just for sleeping any more.
Dogs, until they mostly had it selectively bred out of them, are killers by nature. The wolf has to be a predator to survive in the wild. As much as we like bipedalism, it has to be admitted that four legs (or more—imagine the robo-centipede, if you dare!) benefit locomotion quite a bit. You may get a lower angle of view but a boost for speed. And if you see a robo-dog, especially one with a machine gun for a nose, running is where you’d want to excel. But we’ve taken our companion—our “best friend”—and made it into yet another engine of fear. As someone who grew up with an inordinate number of phobias, I really don’t need one more. Of course, it’s a truism that if a technology comes from the military it will be cause for alarm.
I’m capable of dreaming. I can dream of peace and cooperation and what we could build if we didn’t have to worry about the aggressive, the greedy, and the narcissist. Those who never learned to play well with others but who make money easily and spend it to bend the world to their bleak, bleak vision that lacks a happy ending for all but themselves. I can envision meeting people who are different without the first thought being exploitation—what can I get out of them?—or fear that they wish to harm me. Humans are endlessly inventive, especially when it comes to ways to harm one another. If our creativity could be set toward working for the benefit of all, dogs would be for petting and drones would be for seeking out new ways to solve the problems that beset us all. Instead we make them into new nightmares.