Gunshot Detection System in Schools: Recipe for Disasters
OK. Let’s think about this development for a little while, viz., that Brockton High School in Boston got a gunshot detection system as a gift from one of its alums who sells these systems on the east coast.
The system has an alarm and detects where the shots were fired, that is, which room in the school, and within seconds alerts school officials and each and every police person in Brockton. The police are to respond as if there was “an active shooter” on the loose, not someone who is suicidal or someone who has taken hostages. The detectors are battery operated. Sounds like it is as good as it gets, especially because as the salesman said, “It takes human beings out of the situation.” So what could go wrong?
First, it is really useful to have all the police in Brockton notified, and being expected to respond? Sounds like a possible SNAFU situation to me: Situation Normal All Fucked Up. I don’t’ know how many police there are in Brockton but the possibilities for screw ups increase as the number of officers involved increase. Where would all these officers meet? Who would take charge of them and direct them effectively? How would the SWAT officers interact with the other officers?
Second, the detectors pinpoint where the shooter is, allegedly. Actually, they only pinpoint where the shot or shots were fired, not where the shooter is because shooters are capable of moving, shooting and then moving. That is, this technology creates a picture, as it were, but there is no guarantee that that picture is accurate because like all technologically generated pictures, these are only virtual pictures. Mistaking virtual pictures for real pictures could lead to some pretty terrible outcomes, like mistaking innocent students for the shooter or shooters.
That the picture is merely virtual and not real is confirmed by the fact that the police are to assume that the shooter is “active;” that is, is not suicidal and not holding hostages. But what if the shooter is suicidal or holding hostages? If that’s the case then the police will be responding to a situation that doesn’t in fact exist; they would be responding to something like a mirage, something not real. If the shooter had hostages and the police didn’t know that, the danger to the hostages would increase. And if the shooter were suicidal, not homicidal, treating her or him as homicidal could guarantee that the shooter’s “suicide” would be successful, that is, suicide by cop. In other words, these situations are far more complicated than can be conveyed by such technological tools as gunshot detection systems.
And this is what happens when humans are replaced by technology. Technological tools don’t have what humans have, namely, imagination. Without imagination, these tools are essentially blind to the situations they are allegedly assessing. Without imagination, it is extremely difficult to assess situations realistically, although because we are so enamored of technology these days we have forgotten that imagination is absolutely essential for being realistic, for being in touch with what I like to call “real reality.”
The very last thing that should be done in dealing with situations like these is to remove human beings from dealing with them, or subordinating the judgment of human beings to machines. In every situation where either of these things is done, from drone warfare to facial recognition systems, the results are eventually but always inhuman. After all, why would you expect anything else when you take the human element out of the real world? With humans taken out of our situation, only the inhuman remains. Why is this so difficult to understand?