Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Automated Border

If you’ve been reading Subtopia for the last year now you’d know that one aspect of urban militarization we’ve been paying close attention to is the evolution of the border fence. It seems in the last year alone several key features have emerged bringing some security planners’ defensive wet dreams that much closer to fruition.

[Image: From a U.S. Border Patrol Remote Surveillance camera, in this research piece called VideoAutomated Video Security put together by the Southwest Research Institute.]

I’m talking about a completely futuristic border barrier where human personnel are entirely substituted by unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligent robots, networks of surveillance cameras and satellite-connected border posts, self-adjusting light systems, ground sensors – essentially, technology which potentially could eliminate the physical constructs of an actual fence altogether; invisible walls, hidden checkpoints, secret surveillance landscapes, border security that – for all visible intents and purposes – has been designed to not exist, or, rather to disappear.
In our own nightmarish speculations we’ve referred to the maturity of this frightening prospect as a nomadic fortress – a future border wall that not only aspires to curb the incomprehensibly tangled and intractable flows of global migration but that actually moves and re-adjusts itself, nomadically re-articulates its own geographic prowess, redrawing territorial boundaries, cinching contested borderzone real estate, snaking in the shadows of some Orwellian surveillatopia like something akin to the new Great Wall of sorts, only updated with all the latest technology; in today’s scenario, this could be perhaps the world’s first fully automated global border fence. The Great Wall of China, though without a single stone.

[Image: The Mini-Samson RCWS developed by developed by Israel Armament Development Authority Rafael and the IDF, via Israeli-weapons.com.]

Well, recently there have been reports of the Israeli Defense Forces starting to deploy “robotic snipers” along the border with Gaza. These are autonomous vehicles that take video footage and relay it back to operators who then can scan the footage and control the armed vehicles to fire upon intruders or suspects. There is also the “see-shoot” program, developed by Israel Armament Development Authority Rafael, which, according to the same article is part of Elbit Systems' Ground Forces “modernization program,” which does the same thing by allowing these intelligent turrets to be set to shoot at certain targets. Scary-ass shit.
Throw in advances in CCTV facial recognition, or cameras that actually vocally reprimand you, crowd movement pattern recognition, automated behavioral analysis, and you’re that much closer to having weapons along the border that are fully capable of acting on their own, firing without the aid of human determination.

[Image: South Korea is deploying Samsung's SGR-A1 "Intelligent Surveillance & Security Guard Robot" at key installations and along its border. An immobile robot, but one deemed sufficient for defending bases and areas along the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea.]

This is something the Saudi’s are apparently looking at for their future barrier along their border with Iraq.
But, will we ever really allow the day for weapons systems to completely decide on their own who and what is and is not a legitimate target, and then to act on that? I don’t know – call me crazy but the idea of a massive surveillance wall stalking the globe’s conflicted borders with automatically programmed robotic snipers just seems like the creepiest thing ever.

For a more thorough breakdown of how this weapon technically works, using Sentry Tech and elctro-optical sensors, protected by retractable coverings, check out the piece in the ever vigilant Danger Room, which is where I first discovered this story.

More stories:
Israel Wants Robotic Guns, Missiles To Guard Gaza Border
Robots Take Over the Danger Zone
Israel Deploying "See-Shoot" RWS Along Gaza
Israel’s Novel “See-Shoot” Electronic Device Is No Substitute for Human Deterrence
Bouphonia: Kill the Intruders!
South Korea to field gun-cam robots on DMZ


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting concept. Not sure I would trust it though.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never cease to be amazed at how quickly we go about engineering the worst futures we've imagined for ourselves in film and literature. Skynet. Automated robot turrets. When's Metal Gear come on line?

8:00 AM  
Blogger . said...

Very interesting, as somebody who is involved in movements against borders I have learnt that borders are not simply about barriers to stop people entering or leaving but about regulating the basis on which people enter or leave (for instance are they seasonal workers allowed to enter for short periods only). There is a hierarchy of entitlement at borders - some can come and go at will, some can enter at certain times for certain purposes, some not all. The model you described would allow this variable border regime to be automated so that some people wouldn't even notice the border was there (perhaps they have some kind of biometric id that is remotely read) while others would be quickly subject to repression.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...

To some degree this kind of thing is happening. For example, in Texas, drivers who regularly commute across the U.S./Mexico border have their cars outfitted with special tags so that when they approach a border crossing within several hundred meters I believe the tag activates clearance so they don't have to slow down going back and forth across the border . Sort of like automated bridge tolls with prepaid fasttrack passes, etc.
Biometrics in or on people seems like the future, but probably more for a prescribed class of regular border crossers.
How would it apply to illegal immigration?
Though, i fully agree with your assesment of the border as a filtration device based on a hierarchy of clearances. automated bureaucracy is essentially what it becomes.

1:14 PM  

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