Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

Summary: The government has started work on a real life version of Minority Report, where you can be arrested for crimes you might do.

TOPICS: Browser

We live in an age of wonders. We can talk and see our friends in the world over the Internet. We live in an age of horrors. Third-world dictatorships are working on atomic bombs. And, we live in age where new miracles and terrors are only a research project away.

Take, for example, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the government agency that brought us the Internet. Now, besides working on bullets that will home in on their targets, EXtreme ACcuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO), DARPA is working on algorithms that can be used to predict when someone is getting ready to commit a crime.

Who needs three mutant pre-cogs ala the movie Minority Report and Philip K. Dick's short story The Minority Report it was based on, when you have computers? The theory is, given the right algorithms and computers, the government should be able to figure out when "a soldier in good mental health" may become an "insider threat."

Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales (ADAMS) is still in its Request for Proposal (RFP) days may sound like science fiction, but really, is there anything that's fictional about it?

Today, we spend hundreds of millions on Internet Search Engine Optimization (SEO). And, what is that all really about? Isn't it just trying to figure out what we're interested in knowing more about and buying? When we wander about the Internet, we leave trails behind us. We call these footprints, 'cookies' when they're on our PCs, but even if we clean those out of our Web browsers, on every Web site we visit we leave our tracks.

Is there any reason we can't use search engine technology to predict crimes? No, there is not. In fact, we're edging closer to doing it all the time. In my own quiet neck of the woods in western NC, twenty-five people were recently arrested for trafficking in child pornography over the Internet.

Were they guilty? I presume so. Like most such cases, they were found to be visiting Web sites or peer-to-peer networks that cater to their vice.

But, how did they find these sites in the first place? Didn't some of them doing it by using Google or Bing? If they had never visited child porn sites, but were found searching for terms that a reasonable person, or the correctly crafted algorithm, would presume that they were looking for child pornography, wouldn't most people want them to be, if not arrested, investigated?

Or, take the case that kicked off the ADAMS project: the dozen plus murders by Army Major Nidal Hasan. From the evidence presented so far it seems clear that the military should have known that Hasan was capable of acting in a way that would be harmful to the country, if not the actual murders themselves. Certainly, if ADAMS had been in place, the presumption is that Hasan would have been 'caught,' before he committed mass-murder.

It sounds great doesn't it? Who doesn't want child abusers or mass murderers caught before they can harm anyone?

But, where do we draw the line? You see, I'm sure ADAMS will work. I just looked at Facebook. I just wrote about being tired after a long trip. What do I see but ads about travel and sleep aids. Funny that eh? Of course, I also see ads for stuff that I don't have any interest in, but I can see how an SEO program might guess from the information on my Facebook page that I might be interested in bands from the 80s.

What about someone looking for information about hand-guns? Pick them up because they might become a murderer? What about someone looking for lock-picks? Should they be picked up because ADAMS predicts that they may be thinking of breaking and entering?

Let's say its 2024, and I just wrote a note about how I miss the good old days when President Obama was still in charge and before Social Security went belly-up so we could keep funding the war in Iran. Could I expect a visit from the local National Guard because I might be guilty of anti-government activities against President Sarah Palin during her third term in office?

Spin it around to the political paranoia fantasy of your choice. Make it Obama is in his fourth term and anyone writing anything on the Web that sounds like it pro-tea-party propaganda is automatically being audited by the IRS. Do we really want to start sliding down the slippery slope of investigating and even arresting for people what they might do? For what they think? For what some computer program thinks they might think?

We need to start deciding now. The Minority Report's pre-crime division isn't a fantasy. It's barely fiction. We will be able to start 'predicting' possible crimes. Sometimes it will be right. Sometimes it will be wrong. Regardless, armed with this kind of information, people may very well start pushing the limits of what's a crime and what it isn't.

You see, I believe that it's only a very short step from one science fiction story, Minority Report, to another, 1984. That's not a journey I want to take. After all, as the movie's tag-line goes, "The system is perfect until it comes after you."

Topic: Browser

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  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    In The Morning!

    Jeez. Predicting user behaviour is far more complicated than just moving a few screens with your fingers, "a la Tom Cruise".

    If one day this happens we are going to start seeing people being arrested just for their thoughts. And that, my friend, is plain wrong.

    What I would like to know is why you are "sure" that something similar to this will work. With no doubts.

    Bring back Rambo or Arnie. I like them better than Tom Cruise.
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

      @bod_ ,, I have my own algorithm, derived from 50+ years of watching the news about serial killers--they all have the same profile, according to their neighbors--"Quiet. Keep to himself. Kind of a loner--not many friends. Seemed like a nice fellow." People answering this description should be picked up immediately.
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

      @bod_ I meant work as in "We're going to believe it works and then act like it does." Not as in, "We'll be able to accurately predict what any individual will do." For example, we act like polygraphs--lie-dectectors--work, there's very little proof that they actually do. Never-the-less, the NSA, FBI, and schlock TV shows use them every day.
  • Sad thing is..

    this is exactly what the "progressives" want. Big G offering "perpetual peace for everyone" [who share the same ideals and refuse to challenge government]. This is why we need to return to the Constitution...
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

      Couldn't agree more...oh oh....they're listening....
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

      @JT82 you've got to be kidding... last time I noticed, it was the Repubs who are the ones trying to poke their noses into every aspect of your life, including your bedroom. Just look at the Terri Schiavo case, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and all the anti-homosexual rants/bills they've introduced. Progressives are trying to bring equality and fairness into our country, while the Repubs are constantly trying to forces their ideology down everyone else's throats... on another note, have you ever noticed how these anti gay, pro family Repubs are often the ones who come out in the media as being hypocritical, often doing the things they claim to abhor?
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    @JT82 It will not be the progressives that are going to put this into play. They with the ACLU will be fighting against it and for the common person. It will be the conservative Republicans using nationsl security reasons for putting this into play along with their illegal wiretapping, e-mail snooping, and GPS bugging of "suspects". And we are already on that slippery slope thanks to Bush and Cheney. Heaven forbid if the Republicans regain power. of course they will do it in the name of liberty, but liberty for the rich and servitude for the rest of us.
    • Republicans?


      Only the mentally challenged trust the Democrats more than the Republicans - and only idiots trust the Republicans more than the Democrats.

      Extremists on both sides will do whatever they can to abuse this technology. Pretending that only conservative extremists engage in anti-social behavior is, well, "naive" is the only printable word I can think of...
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    And in the news there are people in government wanting to get "torture warrants" to legally torture people ala the ye ol' Inquisition.....

    They just don't want to give up on "Witch Hunts"...
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not watching.
  • Technology

    Some people look to technology to make their jobs easy instead of putting in the effort needed to investigate. My guess is that it will help tighted up profiling information and be used like most statistics.

    It seems to start with the slippery slope that begins with "are they guilty? I presume so" and ends with a rush to judgement. The correct answer is someone is accused of crime, but presumed innocent until found guilty in a court. Releasing information about a court case as if there will be no doubt to the outcome is wrong although it is happening more and more because releasing the information is technologically too easy.
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    Sad, but it probably will happen. Guilty till proven innocent will be tossed out the window. At least it will if we continue on the same path we are going down now with the erosion of individual rights and government intrusion.
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology


      i think you mean "innocent until proven guilty will be tossed out the window"...
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    Just not sure how you can charge someone for a crime they haven't committed. Until they do, they haven't...(yes, I've seen the movie.)
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

      @47_praky easy, you change the laws and have the supreme court uphold those laws. That's how we ended up with roadblock sobriety check points that work no better than a patrolman driving around observing drivers but do allow cops to harass those doing nothing wrong and pry into their private business.
      • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

        @Al_nyc : I don't know where you've been, but every major media account I've ever seen says the exact opposite of what you're saying. And it's the same with our local enforcement, too.
    • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

      Actually Isaac Asimov once wrote a short story about this very concept - "All the Troubles of the World". The way the concept was implemented was that Multivac, Asimov's reoccurring super computer was given access to all the information in the world, and every day sent out lists of people along with the probability they would commit certain crimes. The police responded to these lists by picking up the people, talking with them for a few hours and then releasing them since they were not guilty of anything.
      Basically the police had no authority to prosecute an uncommitted crime, but by investigating crimes beforehand they were frequently able to prevent the crime from being committed.
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    Hmmm - thought crime here? Criminal acts are only criminal when committed. Just because I google something unpleasant doesn't mean I'm off to commit crime, after I might be researching my PhD thesis. Skip minority report and go back to Orwell's 1984 (dead tree or kindle edition).
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Technology

    if this comes to pass i'm moving out of the country, i'd hate to think i could be investigated for a type-o, we may as well all become communist since democracy has taken to hiding in the shadows.
  • RE: Real Life 'Pre-Crime' Tech(junk)nology

    Even the most powerful computers are non more than
    repetitious machines, framing events on previous existing events. Eventually a bit more intelligent than an earthworm.

    A skilled crime setup will 100 % evade such frames, and
    such evasions will easily be engineered with data from the analyzing computers.

    I've ROFLD'd many times over the "smart" trading comps on the stock exchanges who permit such junk during several "flashes" effectively sabotaging the prime source of
    financial growth in the world using previous events to
    frame in coming ones.
    While also finding a lot of cheap stocks during them.

    A roller coaster passenger hardly qualifies to ride a
    fighter plane.

    Use the blasted machines to store and query data,
    most above that is . . . .

    "I believe in ST Claus" Ho hO ho . . . .