Holy Shchit! Russia’s monstrous new anti-riot “Shield” doubles as a movable turret
Russian company Kalashnikov – those of AK-47 rifle fame – recently showcased an unsettling new product in Moscow during a military arms expo. The Shchit, which translates as Shield, is an anti-riot vehicle with a garage-door sized barrier attached to the front and it looks monstrous.
As reported by Popular Mechanics, the Shchit’s eponymous shield is lowered and raised by two metal arms on the side of the vehicle. When put into riot-ready position, the barrier can be used as a movable turret. There are platforms on the backside of the shield where police stand, as well as holes used for firing projectiles into the crowd. To top it all off, the head of the barrier comes with an in-built water cannon.
This comes in the context of increasing domestic tensions within Russia. In 2016 Vladimir Putin established a new National Guard, which has this year been undergoing readiness tests to “combat subversive activity”. While the Guard claims it is preparing to combat terrorism, critics of Putin have said the forces will be used to repress dissent. Given the Russian presidential election in 2018, against a backdrop of ongoing anti-corruption protests, the worry is that Putin’s government is readying itself for violence against the opposition.
Kalashnikov has precedent in making unsettling new weaponry. While the Shchit looks terrifyingly designed for firing into crowds of civilians – something the Russian National Guard is allowed to do under select circumstances – it still has a human driver behind the wheel. The company’s “fully automated combat module”, on the other hand, is an AI-controlled weapon that makes use of neural networks to identify targets and make decisions.
A number of prominent figures, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkings, have recently cried out about the dangers of artificial intelligence weaponry. Musk, for example, said this month that AI poses vastly more risk than North Korea. He’d previously said artificial intelligence posed a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation”.
While long-term questions about new technologies and weaponry are important, existential risks in a much more immediate sense will be felt if you see the Shchit moving towards you in a crowd. Kalashnikov’s new anti-riot vehicle is a reminder you don’t need artificial intelligence to worry about the future of human civilisation.
Images: Kalashnikov Company