As fear of impending an artificial intelligence takeover heightens, another incident reminds us that it’s the decisions of humans we need to worry about, not robots.

An animal shelter in San Francisco is getting slammed for using a robot to deter homeless people from setting up encampments near its business. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), an animal hospital and adoption group, employed a Knightscope K5 robot to wander up and down its sidewalks (yes, that’s the same model that drowned itself in a fountain a few months back).

The robot, which is brazenly adorned with animal stickers, doesn’t harm people or tell folks to go away. Equipped with cameras, lasers, and thermal sensors, it acts as a bodyguard, detecting suspicious human activity and alerting authorities. Costing just $6 an hour to rent, the cone-shaped machine is cheaper to employ than a human.

The robot was supposedly being used by the shelter to reduce the number of crimes, not to push homeless people out, the San Francisco Business Times reported. Knightscope tried to justify the use of its robot on Twitter, claiming there are fewer homeless camps and car break-ins since the Dalek-like machine started patrolling the area outside the building.

“We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” Jennifer Scarlett, president of the San Francisco SPCA chapter, told the Times. 

Scarlett said some people have vandalized the robot, including one person who put “a tarp over it, knocked it over, and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors.” A Twitter user claims someone “smeared their poo” on it.

The SPCA was met with harsh criticism for using a robot to drive people out of encampments. People went after the group and Knightscope on social media, questioning the ethics of its decisions.

Others urged people to destroy the human-hating machine.

Many argued the money spent on renting the robot should have been used to help the homeless.

The city of San Francisco told the animal shelter it could no longer operate the robot without a permit. It threatened a $1,000 fine per day for illegally operating the robot on city-owned grounds.

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