Thomas Sowell famously said, “There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.”
This quote seems appropriate considering the $3 million contract for AI weapon detection in schools. So, what are the trade-offs?
False Sense of Security
The premise of AI weapon detection is that it will stop mass shootings in schools, or at least reduce the damage done, by detecting a weapon early and decreasing the response time for law enforcement and schools.
But the system fails by falsely identifying weapons, while sometimes failing to recognize actual guns. In New York, a police officer carried his service revolver through the AI weapon detection system twice without detection. The school was told to turn up the sensitivity of the system.
What the AI then detected was a bomb, which was actually a seven-year-old’s lunchbox.
Later that month, the system did not detect a knife that was later used to attack another student.
The Utah contractor claims that a response can begin once a threat has been identified — in as little as three to five seconds. And time does matter in these incidents.
But police response is where the majority of time is taken in these incidents.
According to ALICE Training, the average incident takes 2 to 3 minutes to report, but then 14 to 15 minutes for police to arrive on the scene and enter the building.
Dangers of Normalizing Big Brother
We are normalizing government surveillance by allowing these systems into the schools. What does increased surveillance from the government do to citizens?
Studies show that constant surveillance has negative consequences for those being watched. People being constantly watched develop a mistrust of others, conformity, and mediocrity in their performance. Mental health suffers too. Constant surveillance leads to increased stress, fatigue, and anxiety.
The National Education Association reports that there has been a 50 percent increase in mental health reported by college students.
The danger of normalizing a surveillance state is huge. In their documentary, Nothing to Hide, you can see what happens to a Mr. X who was monitored using only metadata. He thinks nothing of it at first, but you can see him become visibly disturbed by the end of the presentation of what the researchers found using only metadata.
Don’t Give Government Power You Wouldn’t Want Used Against You
But some may argue that this is only for the schools. They won’t use it beyond the school.
What will happen to our children if we normalize being watched all the time? What will their world look like?
Monitoring students for weapons isn’t just surveillance. It is normalizing a lack of privacy, and it is a trade-off I am unwilling to make.
What about you?