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Security Robot Used Against Homeless People Is the Most Obvious Metaphor


Hey, remember K5, that security robot that inexplicably has a name closer to the Doctor’s trusty robot dog companion than to the Daleks it actually looks like? It’s finally starting to live up to its appearance after some early troubles with existential crises, as it was put into use on the sidewalk around the San Francisco SPCA to prevent homeless people from daring to think they can rest there.

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The SPCA is located in San Francisco’s currently gentrifying Mission neighborhood, and the people who work at the animal shelter/advocacy group have had trouble safely using the sidewalks outside of their building due to homeless encampments, their media relations manager told Business Insider. So, in case the irony of a pet shelter being annoyed by homeless humans wasn’t thick enough, they stationed Gentrification Bot 5,000, a.k.a. a K5 unit, outside, which is much more cost effective (at $7/hour for a rental) than paying a human being a wage that would allow them to afford food and shelter.

Perhaps all that is why the negative reaction was so strong, with the city of San Francisco ordering the SPCA to keep their robot off the streets or face a hefty fine. Its intended victims had apparently already taken matters into their hands, though, as the San Francisco Business Times says some of them, “put a tarp over [the robot], knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors.”

Take that, robot overlords. The revolution will be delicious.

Of course, we’d all like to see a reduction in the growing rate of homelessness in the United States, but trying to keep the problem out of sight with robotic deterrents doesn’t actually solve the problem. All of this is a stark reminder that a lot of dystopian fiction isn’t meant to literally describe some far-off future that we have to prevent from overtaking a wonderful present. The present is full of the same flaws, and they become easier to understand by making them too overt to miss, whether it’s with fictional societies and technology, or in the real-world case of the SPCA’s 400-pound rolling electronic metaphor.

(via Rami Ismail on Twitter, image: screengrab)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>

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