Friday, March 27, 2015

You Will Eventually Love Drones

All the talk these days is suddenly about drones. We have real problems, like education, jobs, energy, and infrastructure, but honestly, those problems require real thought. They are tough to work on, and frankly, not very interesting. But drones, there is a subject that requires little thought, much passion, and some good old-fashioned grandstanding. Drones are coming to a city near you. The only problem is that in ten years, they will be everywhere, and you may be glad they are up there. Rand Paul may urge us to consider a sinister government using drones on its people, but what we need to consider is a government that is seeing technology as a way to protect us, by watching us, even if it slowly encroaches in our lives.

Imagine this scenario. You suspect someone is in your yard, and is trying to find a way into your house. You dial 911, and instantly the police drone overhead locates your house and begins recording video on a high-resolution camera. It also records any movement in the neighborhood. The squad car that responds to your 911 call is watching the overhead video and sees the suspect run from your yard. Facial recognition software identifies him and his arrest record is downloaded. Meanwhile, the camera follows his every move, and the squad car intercepts him.

We can combine drone technology with RFID technology that can identify whose car was near the scene of the crime, and whose cell phone was attached to the nearest tower. We can use drones to keep an eye on trouble areas, map those areas, and detect patterns. Who is speeding in your neighborhood? Who is there that should not be? What is the fastest route through existing traffic for an emergency vehicle? Where is the accident? Drones can perform these tasks faster, and cheaper. And of course, cheaper is good in these times. Consider the cost of putting ten squad cars on the street, or one drone in the sky. We can trade shoe leather for data. And that saves money.

This is not a Orwellian fantasy. This is doable now. The technology is available. There is really nothing unconstitutional about it. Your personal liberties say nothing about privacy in public spaces. In fact, you don't have any. Rand Paul can filibuster until he wets himself, drones are on the way. We need to think less about their tactical use against citizens, which is silly, and more about how we are going to balance personal liberties and social demands in a digital world. Sadly, it is a question that no one in congress wants to filibuster.