In most areas around the world, social distancing has become the new normal, with people staying at least six feet apart and gathering in only small groups. Some even wear masks and gloves. At one time, these would have been seen as extreme measures, but under today’s threat of coronavirus, they are not only accepted but welcomed.
While most citizens may not like having to stay away from their loved ones or wearing special personal protection to go out in public, we understand that without such measures in place, the world could further drift into chaos. So we practice good hygiene, stay away from others, and avoid going anywhere unless absolutely necessary, even as states begin to reopen their businesses.
And while the fear of the spreading virus has caused us to take precautions, some areas are letting it overrun their governments, allowing them to overstep their bounds and infringe on civil liberties and rights.
Take the nation of Singapore, for example. Here, social distancing has been given a new dictator, and his name is SPOT. SPOT, a robot that resembles a dog, prowls the area of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, reminding anyone nearby to keep to social distancing guidelines.
The robot says in English, “Let’s keep Singapore healthy. For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”
The robot is “controlled remotely, reducing the manpower required for park patrols and minimizing physical contact among staff, volunteer safe distancing ambassadors and park visitors. This lowers the risk of exposure to the virus,” according to a recent news release made by GovTech Singapore.
SPOT was created by Boston Dynamics, a company located in communist China, of all places and is designed with cameras so that an estimated number of people in the park can be reached at all times.
However, the news release says that “These cameras will not be able to track and/or recognize specific individuals, and no personal data will be collected.”
At least for now. But one could only imagine that a government that is willing to spy on its park visitors might at some point, be willing to take even more liberties in infringing on ours.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the aptly named SPOT can also traverse “different terrains and can navigate obstacles effectively.” So there is no getting away from it, should it choose you as a target of its constant social distancing reminders.
It’s a little scary, to say the least, right?
I’m sure many of you are thanking your lucky stars that SPOT isn’t in America.
But before you continue that thought with one that says it will never happen here, let me remind you that only a few months ago, most of us could never have imagined our cities and businesses being shut down, citizens forced to wear masks in public, and required to stay away from others. If I would have told you what was coming, you would have laughed in my face and said, ‘Nope, not here, not in America, not ever.’ And you would have been wrong.
And while we may not have social distancing dogs, some areas in the U.S. instead have flying drones being used to achieve the same concept. Yep, that’s right. Some local governments have deployed remote control drones to ensure that citizens are keeping their distance from one another.
I’m not really sure which is worse.
But in either case, we are already nearly there.
Now, I understand that local and federal governments everywhere have an arduous task at hand. Unlike most of us, they have billions of people to worry about instead of just a handful. And it’s not just their health and safety, although those are pretty much paramount. In addition, they have to consider their economies, the law of their land, and the rights of the people.
And all too often, the measures that would seek to keep us the safest are not the most freeing.
But that doesn’t mean that our liberties should be ignored and placed on the back burner. As our President once said, we cannot kill the patient by attempting to cure them. And in the case of America, where our freedoms are our lifeblood, infringing upon our rights is doing just that, killing us.