When Peter George saw news of the racially motivated mass-shooting at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo last weekend, he had a thought he’s often had after such tragedies.
“Could our system have stopped it?” he said. “I don’t know. But I think we could democratize security so that someone planning on hurting people can’t easily go into an unsuspecting place.”
George is chief executive of Evolv Technology, an AI-based system meant to flag weapons, “democratizing security” so that weapons can be kept out of public places without elaborate checkpoints. As U.S. gun violence like the kind seen in Buffalo increases — firearms sales reached record heights in 2020 and 2021 while the Gun Violence Archive reports 198 mass shootings since January — Evolv has become increasingly popular, used at schools, stadiums, stores and other gathering spots.
To its supporters, the system is a more effective and less obtrusive alternative to the age-old metal detector, making events both safer and more pleasant to attend. To its critics, however, Evolv’s effectiveness has hardly been proved. And it opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical issues in which convenience is paid for with RoboCop surveillance.