A new technology, based on pre-crime software developed by Richard Berk, has recently hit law enforcement agencies in Washington D.C. Reminiscent of the movie Minority Report, this technology is said to be able to predict when and by whom crimes will be committed before they happen based on variables such as age of previous offenders, location, and criminal records.
The pre-crime software is nothing new. Older versions have been and continue to be used in the cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia. However, these versions of the pre-crime software were strictly used to predict the possibility of murders by parolees.
The new, revamped version, which is just beginning to be used by the law enforcement agencies in Washington D.C., ups the ante by predicting many other types of crime in addition to murder. This pre-crime software does not take into account any evidence of a future crime; it calculates possibilities based on previous data.
The frightening aspect of the pre-crime software is that, if proven effective, it may be used in the near future to determine whether or not an individual should be let out on bail, the bail amount, and what level of supervision offenders on probation and parolees receive. While this may seem rather innocuous at first glance, it’s a possible first step to a technology-based police state in which people are punished for crimes they are likely to commit. The events in Minority Report may not be as far-fetched as they were once perceived.
The pre-crime technology is not confined to Washington D.C. either. Other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago also plan to begin using the software in their own law enforcement agencies. If the pre-crime software proves successful in these major cities, it could spread like a wildfire all across the country until its use becomes standard practice.
Perhaps even more frightening is that a company called Recorded Future is being financially backed by Google and even the CIA. Recorded Future searches the internet and collects data on the relationships between organizations, people, and actions, both present and in the future. This information could possibly be used in the future in conjunction with pre-crime software to attempt to predict the future crimes of former offenders as well as those with no criminal record.
While it can be argued that the pre-crime technology has its merits (and to some extent, it does), one must remember that an individual is not a statistic. The fact that a certain percentage of people that fall in a certain age, race, gender, or other demographic have a high probability to perform a certain action does not have any bearing on a specific individual’s likelihood from the same demographic to perform the same action. Human beings are not just the result of probability and, so long as free will exists, no individual’s actions can be predicted with 100% accuracy.
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