We have all viewed at least one film/movie/video/series that depicted metallic police officers in a dystopian (or utopian, take your pick) future.

As the link points out we are already building said pieces of hardware and the software to run them. Assuming we begin to mass-release robots that are stronger than humans, faster, and make logical decision (rather than making decisions out of fear and nervousness like human officers) as police officers, how would the economy of the western world react?

To be clear, we are not scrapping human officers, just supplementing their ranks with metallic "helpers" so to say.


The robotic police officers are being added to the police force by the govt. The goals are:

1.) Intimidate criminals

2.) Capture political opposition as "terrorists"

3.) Help end the incrimination of police officers by having a camera and trailing human officers.

The robots can be deployed with non-lethal weapons and are capable of running 50 mph and lifting 500 lbs on average, although there are several models that vary in stats.

The capturing of political dissidents is reserved for people who can be shown to be terrorists. Media is still free and there is still freedom of speech. During riots, however these rights are all revoked and anything the govt. does is officially legal.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't really see how robot police officers affect the economy. Are you just trying to make a contribution to the fortnightly challenge? $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh May 19 '15 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ DJ I really think you need to define what the officers are capable of, specifically as relevant to a more specific question (you're a bit broad). We also need to know who is pulling the strings and with what intent. Without knowing that we cannot know their impact on anything. $\endgroup$ – James May 19 '15 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ Backing up @DaaaahWhoosh 's question: What makes you think it could affect the economy? Other than the (microscopic) effects of having one-time costs for buying the robots as opposed to paying the humans' wages? $\endgroup$ – Burki May 19 '15 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh It is part of the challenge and I don't know how (or if) it would effect the economy. That is the purpose of the question. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat May 19 '15 at 15:22

Isolating the question to how this would impact the economy, there are a few things to split apart:

  • Companies that produce the platforms and supply parts/service for them: Look at this in the scope of the automotive industry. You will need to decide who actually makes the robots and how many of them are there and whether or not they are national or international companies. A national manufacturer is more likely to gain support from the government and citizenry to provide the robots through a government contract (who you have stated is supplying the robots), where as a foreign company would likely face stiffer opposition to deploy such robots. An example would be how American police departments use American manufactured vehicles instead of foreign. Additionally, you should determine who provides the service and maintenance to these machines, are the local departments required to do so, or are the machines property of the federal government? Are the technicians in-house or do they need to go to an exterior shop for service? Do those who service these machines also service commercially available robots? This most direct impact on the economy determines who is making money on the sale of these machines and who makes money on their maintenance. You could end up with a massive monopoly or oligopoly in that has significant economic influence in the local government through the amount of robots that they supply. A politician is less likely to go against the wishes of a corporate CEO who can make half their police force vanish. Additionally, you could end up with individuals who see an economic windfall by becoming maintenance engineers with a specific skill set that they can now deploy.

  • Production/Maintenance of Software & Operation: Based on your question, I assume the robots are autonomous and not remote drones. This requires very sophisticated software, and that requires a very large team of engineers to write and maintain. Is this part of the same company that produces the robots? Are there third party companies that can produce software? Does the manufacturing company provide live support service for the machines? Can IT professionals remotely connect to a machine to correct issues and provide updates? All these jobs have a economic impact as these are specialized roles that need to be filled.

  • Reduction in crime: How much of an impact does the deployment of the machines the crime rate? If the machines are very effective at preventing property damage, theft, and petty crime, they could have an impact on costs of insurance for personal property and reduce medical costs from injuries of violent crime. In general, a reduction in crime is going to provide a economic increase, though perhaps a small one. As an inverse, if the machines prove to be incompetent or to have little impact on crime, they could negatively impact the economy as a result of higher taxes for little return. There is a cost-benefit scale here.

  • Impact on standing police activities: The presence of an autonomous robots that do exactly as planned and record everything can have a drastic effect on current police departments and behaviors. With the current spread of information in America, it is becoming more apparent that many police officers do not follow the rules that they are required to (http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/06/i-was-a-st-louis-cop-my-peers-were-racist-and-violent-and-theres-only-one-fix/) and many officers have come out in opposition to the monitoring provided by body cameras (http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-lawmakers-police-officers-disagree-on-body-camera-rules-20150414-story.html). The deployment of such robots could lead to police departments loosing staff and unions striking. The automotive industry saw similar behavior when more automation was implemented in manufacturing. These oppositional activities would likely receive citizenry support due to the 'uncanny valley' fear that many humans have towards automated machines that behave and react to humans. These issues could have indirect impact on the economy and you might see "out of work cops" begging on the streets or asking for support from charity organization.

  • Blackmarket Activity: Is there a blackmarket for the robots, do they make their ways into the hands of criminals to modify and use for illegal purposes. It is a common practice to try and provide the same capabilities as your opposition, so criminals making use of robots that are captured, repaired from scrap, scratch built in underworld shops could also have an impact on the economy. You might also have a group of underground hackers who specialize in taking control of and editing the robots, either erasing evidence or turning the machines on those that they are supposed to support. These activities would likely be of a high value to the criminal world in this situation and these individuals could acquire significant wealth.

There are quite a few questions you need to answer to determine the economic impact that police robots would have in your setting, but these are some places to get started.


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