Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Philip K Dick is rolling over in his grave

In 1956, Philip K. Dick wrote a story called Minority Report about a future society where criminals were apprehended before they committed a crime. It was later made into a movie by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise. The core of both pieces is the same - is it just to arrest and try people for a crime they have not yet committed? And how far will society go to protect itself? At the time, it was speculative fun or biting satire, depending on how you looked at it.

In 2010, it is quickly becoming reality. In PKD's world, precognitive superhumans were the means. Today, Google and other data warehouse companies look to mine data to predict future behavior.

“When a person goes on probation or parole they are supervised by an officer. The question that officer has to answer is ‘what level of supervision do you provide?’” Berk told ABC News, intimating that the program could have a bearing on the length of sentences and/or bail amounts.
“People assume that if someone murdered then they will murder in the future,” Berk also states, “But what really matters is what that person did as a young individual. If they committed armed robbery at age 14 that’s a good predictor. If they committed the same crime at age 30, that doesn’t predict very much.”
This is a kind of technology that needs to be closely watched and regulated. It is easy to say today that it will never be misused, but would the public have approved this technology on 9/12/2001 if it was revealed it could have predicted 9/11? We need to consider these questions now, because the hard choices are not far away.

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