China announces plans to build unmanned police stations run by AI

WHY THIS MATTERS

AI will help governments create and deliver new, more efficient services. Used wisely it has the potential to help people save time, but relying too heavily on AI to protect and police populations isn’t without its dangers.

 

The next time a citizen in Wuhan in China needs some help from the police there’s a good chance that they’ll be dealing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent rather than an actual human because this week the Chinese government announced their plans to build what they’re calling, rather unceremoniously, “unmanned police stations powered by AI,” and the current plan is that at first these new stations will focus solely on vehicle related matters, however with AI pre-crime technology on the rise, such as AI’s that can detect guilt, character, and identify potential criminals before they commit crimes, that could just be the start of a new revolution in local policing.

 

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According to Chinese financial paper Caijing Neican that first reported the story the new police stations will provide locals with basic driver examinations and registration services, and they’ll be outfitted with an assortment of facial recognition technologies from Tencent that will be used to automatically identify people, helping eliminate the need for people to manually fill out menial forms and eliminating the need for ID cards. As a consequence there will be no need for people to login or complete paperwork again because the system will have everything it needs – information that could, conceivably, be provided by the Chinese governments recently announced national social credit scoring system that I wrote about earlier this year.

While AI only police stations might sound fantastical and a huge first step forwards the real reason behind the move is much more practical, initially anyway, because put simply they’ll help eliminate the need for users to sit at stations for long periods of time, sign up for accounts and download apps because the AI will access all pertinent information as soon as it sees the person’s face. Sounds lush.

 

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“Police stations are crucial state organs of power. Public security enforcement is the most important social service provided by the government but today, they are also changing and advancing with the times, and the light of AI has begun to shine on this area,” said the paper.

According to reports, and coming in the wake of China’s recent announcement that it wants to lead the world in AI by 2030, the stations will operate around the clock, but whatever the outcome it’s likely that this experiment is going to be just a toe in the water for future trials, ones that will no doubt be bigger and bolder in the years to come, and if Dubai’s plans and aspirations are anything to go by then soon these Chinese police stations will be “manned” by police robots, autonomous police cars and criminal catching drones…

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