NYPD’s robot ‘dog’ elicits controversial comparisons to Netflix’s TV Series “Black Mirror”

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  • A New York Police Department police car. Taken on February 5, 2011.

  • An edited photo of the NYPD police dog from February 26, 2021.

  • The robot dog featured in “Black Mirror” 2017 episode “Metalhead” (Season 2, Episode 5).

A viral video posted to Twitter shows off the NYPD’s $74,000 robot police “dog.” Bystanders watch the robot exit a Manhattan public housing complex after police officers responded to a domestic dispute where they arrested the suspect and charged him with criminal possession of a weapon on Monday, April 12.

The NYPD revealed that the 70-pound, four-legged robot, created by Boston Dynamics, is equipped with cameras, lights, two-way communication, and artificial intelligence programming that allows it to move on its own. Yet, the expensive piece of technology has not only sparked immense controversy online, but it has also been in close comparison to Netflix’s Original Series Black Mirror.

The show is a “sci-fi anthology series [that] explores a twisted, high-tech near-future where humanity’s greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide.” More specifically, people online are finding similarities to an episode called “Metalhead” (Season 4, Episode 5) that aired on December 29, 2017.

The synopsis of the eerie, black and white episode is described by Entertainment, “It’s a post-apocalyptic future where robot dogs are hunting human survivors, including our protagonist (Maxine Peake), who faces an unrelenting and surprisingly capable pursuer across a barren landscape. The robot is full of lethal tricks, ranging from operating a car to recharging from the sun.”

Bystanders at the sight of the scene and other online users alike are collectively unsettled and worried about this new technology and what it could possibly mean for the future of first-responding operators. The robot K9 brought fear to Melanie Aucello, a woman who captured one of the viral videos posted online, “It felt surreal…It scared me.”

New York State Senator Brad Holyman says “I think it really speaks to the skewed priorities of their [NYPD’s] leadership…They [citizens] deserve policing that is humane and human.”

Concern not only lies in the reactions of onlookers but online users as well, noting how actions to defund the police department after many protests in the summer of 2020 were not taken seriously. People on Twitter are enraged, arguing that the funds that went towards the unnecessary robot police dog could have gone towards other neglected causes such as homelessness, education, mental health, environmental needs, etc.

From the spark of George Floyd’s death that ignited protests all over the world last year, it led many citizens to reconsider the people that are put into power and how they can abuse it. The fight to defund the police ensued lots of controversy from many officials. Now, citizens can evidently see how their voice has been unheard and utterly ignored with the debut of the $74,000 robot K9. With the fear of ominous futuristic shows becoming a reality and an overwhelming sense of discontent from social media users, it can only be hoped that the money, time, and energy spent on the robot is put to good use.