Axon's Rick Smith envisions a world where cops no longer kill
"The End of Killing” paints a portrait of a future where LEOs are equipped with less-lethal weapons that are more effective than deadly weapons
By Police1 Staff
Killing is a technology problem.
That’s according to Axon founder and CEO Rick Smith, who spoke to attendees at the 126th International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference about his new book – a roadmap to creating a world where cops and soldiers no longer need to use deadly force.
Since the time they were fired from muskets, the fundamental design of bullets remains largely unchanged. Battlefield medicine, transportation and a slew of other things have evolved dramatically since the musket was used in warfare, yet the bullet has not. Smith used this example to underscore his view that the bullet is a medieval technology – one that should be obsolete.
“The End of Killing” envisions a world where police officers and soldiers are equipped with less-lethal weapons that are more effective than deadly weapons. It may sound like a far-off future, but Smith argues it’s closer than you think.
3 KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. Smith views the lack of less lethal options as a strategic Achilles heel.
The loss of human life is inherently tragic, and it comes with additional costs. Rational actors kill when they have no other choice, but killing takes an emotional toll regardless of the circumstances. Smith argues that one of the most powerful weapons against world superpowers are children or pregnant women being used as suicide bombers. Killing also results in the potential loss of valuable intelligence for investigations – intel that could thwart an attack or even defeat an enemy.
“We cannot kill our way to victory,” Smith said.
2. We’re already heading toward the end of killing.
Technology has already changed the nature of warfare. As weapons become more precise, countries have gone from fighting wars of attrition to surgical wars. Smith asks: If humanity can design a weapon so precise it can target one person, why can’t we focus our efforts on making less-lethal weapons that eliminate loss of life altogether?
3. Obstacles to improving electric weapons aren’t so much technological as societal.
So, why isn’t Captain Kirk’s phaser the standard issue weapon for LEOs and servicemembers? Smith argues the development of less-lethal weapons technology has stalled in comparison to other human advancements in large part because of the controversial nature of it – what he calls “the new vs. the now.” It takes a significant amount of time for public acceptance of new technologies and the focus initially tends to be less on the benefits and more on what could go wrong. Smith uses the example of autonomous vehicles – last year’s news of a self-driving Uber car fatally striking a woman received national attention, but human-operated vehicles kill thousands of people annually with no uproar.
In order to move forward, the lens needs to shift in terms of how society views technological advancements.
While Smith’s IACP session focused primarily on the path forward for less-lethal technology, his book also touches on a number of other subjects, including the moral and legal implications of a world without privacy, and ending the war on drugs.