Software To Predict Who's Likely To Be A Murderer
from the minority-report,-here-we-come dept
Since the movie Minority Report (based on a Philip K. Dick short story) came out in 2002, we've seen a number of technology advances in that movie actually show up, in such things as posters that talk to you. However, much more interesting was the central tenet of the story, about police being able to predict crimes. We've seen some basic reports that try to predict how much crime is likely to happen in a certain area, to figure out how to better deploy police. Then, last year, there was the wholly unbelievable story claiming that a computer system predicted a mugging, though details were lacking. Now, we've got Bruce Schneier pointing to a story saying that a researcher at UPenn is developing software for the city of Philadelphia that will try to forecast who is likely to become a murderer out of criminals already in the probation department's computers. Obviously, the idea isn't to lock these people up for a crime they haven't committed (er... we hope), but to put extra emphasis on working with those individuals to try to keep them from fulfilling the prediction. Certainly an intriguing (and some may find, worrisome) idea -- but it would seem like there would need to be an awful lot of proof to find out if such software can be even the tiniest bit accurate. Also, though, you have to wonder if part of the reason why this story catches your attention is because of the use of the very specific crime of murder in the description of the software. Would the software be as interesting if it was described as just predicting which current criminals were at "high risk" of later committing a more serious crime?