IBM Helps Florida Predict Just How Delinquent Your Child's Going To Be

from the your-future-self-appears-to-be-a-trouble-maker dept

We've covered several different instances where the country has been taking baby steps toward the kind of precognitive crime prevention featured in the movie Minority Report -- sans naked gibbering women floating in bathtubs. The most recent effort was courtesy of the Homeland Security Department, who is busily developing a body language analysis prediction system dubbed "Future Attribute Screening Technologies" (FAST) -- which aims to detect "shifty" people who may be getting ready to commit a crime of some sort (or just drank way too much coffee).

More common approaches simply involve software that analyzes a database of offenders and cherry picks out the most likely future offenders (very popular in the UK), or analyzes crime patterns to predict future criminal trends. Along those lines, it looks like the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has decided to start using IBM predictive analytics software (via Gizmodo) to help them determine which of the 85,000 kids who enter their system each year poses the biggest future threat. IBM has this to say about the new system -- which was an upgrade from Excel:

"Predictive analytics gives government organizations worldwide a highly-sophisticated and intelligent source to create safer communities by identifying, predicting, responding to and preventing criminal activities. It gives the criminal justice system the ability to draw upon the wealth of data available to detect patterns, make reliable projections and then take the appropriate action in real time to combat crime and protect citizens."
Of course many of these patterns simply become evident when people bother to pay attention and use their intellect, and these tools are often just an extension of that. When prediction technology is used, the technology will only be as good as the people using it (in this case to choose rehabilitation paths for kids). But you still have to wonder how accurate these kinds of systems are and how independently verifiable the evidence will be. Can kids who feel they were unfairly, preemptively declared to be bad asses in 2014 see the "reliable" source code?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    byteme, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:18pm

    If the police need a list of people to watch who have a high potential for committing crimes, why don't they just check the list of multiple offenders that the courts keep letting back out on the streets on a daily basis because the court system and the jails are overloaded?

     

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    Dementia (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:20pm

    Better yet, why don't they just get a list of everyone holding a political office?

     

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  3.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

    "sans naked gibbering women floating in bathtubs"

    Which was the best part of the movie

    "IBM has this to say about the new system -- which was an upgrade from Excel:"

    If that's true, it's both hilarious and depressing.

     

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  4.  
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    John Doe, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:29pm

    Nothing like guilty until proven innocent..

    Of course, once labeled, you will not be able to prove yourself innocent until you spend years not doing the things they thought you were going to do.

     

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  5.  
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    DS, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:35pm

    Well, if it's looking at the youths of Florida, let me save them the trouble... 100%

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:39pm

    How do they differentiate between malicious and nervous? Just because I am cracking my knuckles does not mean I am about to rob a bank. I may only be waiting to hear back from Trusted_Family_Member_X about Serious_Issue_Y. Or as Karl mentioned (Prediction: someone will say Mike wrote this), I could just be jacked up on coffee and in need of a long, demoralizing day at work.

     

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  7.  
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    VX, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Rehabilitation vs. Punishment

    As long as they use predictive technology to provide more assistance to the individuals that need it most then I see no problems. If however, they decide to use this predictive technology to extend punishments of "likely" offenders that would be discrimination and persecution for perceived threat (similar to thoughtcrime). Punishing people based on heurstics should not be tolerated.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Also, as with any predictive analysis, there will be false positives (and negatives). I'm guessing either:

    1. The sales folks claimed 100% accuracy and precision

    2. The Gub't officials decided it would be swept under the rug or taken care of by the Department of Someone Else's Problem.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    "How do they differentiate between malicious and nervous?"

    Truly innocent people have nothing to be nervous about.

     

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  10.  
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    greg.fenton (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    How about the converse?

    Why not use the technology to predict which kids are going to be leaders, and promote those individuals within the group so as to deter the evil doers?

    Or maybe use it to predict which kids will become super heros rather than super villains!

    Interestingly, the Press Release mentions that $12B has been spent by IBM on building analytics, but it doesn't mention how much money IBM will be making from this publicly funded project.

     

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    greg.fenton (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Nothing like guilty until proven innocent..

    You mean "spend years not getting caught doing the things that they already know you will be doing."

    ;)

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    If only youths in Florida had older, legal guardians who were responsible for raising said youths correctly. We could hold them responsible for any failings and expect them to do their share instead of forcing the government to. But who am I kidding? This is AMERICA. Parents taking care of their children and raising them properly is socialism*!

    *I don't know what that means, but they said it on Fox News.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    Socialism, in that context, is a mixture of fascism and communism. Does it make sense? No, but when does stupid propaganda have to make sense?

     

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  14.  
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    Dementia (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re:

    There is no such thing as a truly innocent person. We all have skeletons somewhere.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:54pm

    Of Course...

    "which aims to detect "shifty" people who may be getting ready to commit a crime of some sort"
    So, with selective breeding, in the future we'll having nothing but... (wait for it) ...Smooth Criminals!

     

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    greg.fenton (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Rehabilitation vs. Punishment

    I have a problem with it if it means that people not being tracked are denied resources that because time, effort and money went into a system trying to predict the outcome of individuals.

    Even in most credible science Fiction writers recognized the ability to predict individuals is a pipe dream. The ability to predict large populations with a large amount of variation in probability is tough enough for most to accept.

    How much public funds are being bled from this government institution's budget? What are the estimated cost benefits from this new system? How many individuals do they estimate they will keep out of jail or from harming others?

     

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  17.  
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    P3T3R5ON (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    Funny, but really

    As cool as Minority Report is as a movie and a concept... it was scripted! So of course there is going to be the line ... something something "hasn't been a murder in 12 years" something something....

    Predicting is a dangerous road to travel down. Anybody see Paycheck? We wanted to predict the future and ended up creating a new future and wiped ourselves out because we were afraid of what we could do to each other...

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Re:

    holy crap their all gonna grow up to be lobbiest and politicians?

     

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  19.  
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    Ryan, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re:

    That's truer than you seem to think; rather, I would put it that both fascism and communism(the so-called "intermediate stage" at least) draw from elements of socialism. Though the two are on opposite sides of the spectrum as we define it, they are not antiethetical and are far more similiar to each other than capitalism is to either.

    Of course, parents raising their children unimpeded is not socialism, but the opposite. I don't watch Fox News, but it would seem that what they accuse as being socialism more likely refers to health care "reform", regulatory "reform", bailouts, taxes, subsidies, etc. etc.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re: How about the converse?

    yeah and coincidently enough they predict all the rich peoples kids are leaders and the poor are criminals...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 1:47pm

    Can't wait to see a case like this tried in court, with the defendant saying something like:

    "You knew I would do this, and did nothing to deter me, so you're all guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal!"

     

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  22.  
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    Kaotik4266 (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re:

    You reckon? I'd be pretty damn nervous! They're deciding how you're going to be dealt with for probably the next few years, based on a you-don't-know-how-reliable system.

    I'd say that's a pretty fair reason to be nervous! ;)

     

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  23.  
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    DMNTD, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 3:55pm

    Just like A.I.

    ...yeesh..Its a bad idea and is offensive to state this is a possibility to figure people out. As an experiment its involving and exciting, beyond that forget it and move on. A.I,in my mind has the same principle..nothing to see here.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Of Course...

    OOOOWWWW!

    *leans*

    Were both idiots - lol.

     

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  25.  
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    Karl Bode (profile), Apr 15th, 2010 @ 4:30pm

    Re:

    Yeah I'm not sure why, but the idea that they were upgrading from Excel to a massive new IBM-driven prediction platform amused me, too.

     

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  26.  
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    NAMELESS.ONE, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 4:35pm

    @9 - its about living ones own life, without fear

    so why are you ever this nervous to make such statements. When society of lawyers ( thats what the USA is besides its police nature and military plutocracy ) makes so many laws that crossing the street when no cars are coming is illegal then everyone technically is always doing somehting wrong and its only at the convenience of the state when you become a nuisance are you going to get arrested.

    and what if IBM is wrong
    whats that movie about thought crime where they arrest you if they see your thought of doing wrong, and how its been corrupted by some evil villain to maintain power?
    .....
    I can be good or evil
    YOU cannot make a test how i will act in any situation cause you do not know if i will do either. YOU may see my past and have an educated guess. THAT'S THE BEST THIS IS.

    IF then this is true then run it on me and see if i'm gonna be a terrorist if not then i should not have to be bound under any of anti privacy laws, and test me for pedophilia so i dont have to THINK OF THE CHILDREN , cause i dont go get bad porn. AND while were at it test me to see if i am apt to go and commit crimes at all, and if i do not fall that way then i shall repeat exact phrase i shrink once told me after i was getting a lack a sleep at a residence.
    "Don't fucking waste my time your as sane as they come , it's the peopel around you that are nuts"

    What's that tell you "ima fish"? that your mentality of making people live in fear is wrong? THAT people like you are really crazy nut jobs?
    YES. YOU see i do not fear you, the cops , the feds, my gov't or anything. I will enjoy and live my life and thats something you can't do because your always worried about breaking laws instead of living life

     

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  27.  
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    ant anti mike, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 4:40pm

    Adlib

    and to prove its inaccuracy all one has to do is the opposite of what they normally would do and poof the test is wrong and when it starts to get used by authorities thats exactly what will happen and people will train themselves and brain wash themselves accordingly

    self hypnosis at min and full hypnosis with trained person may aid in fooling anything like this.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Re: Nothing like guilty until proven innocent..

    It's a self fulfilling prophecy and money making machine.
    They pass contradicting laws such that one can not avoid breaking at least one ... and then they predict a certain number of people will get caught ... followed closely by quotas.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 6:06pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm fairly certain that was sarcasm.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2010 @ 6:08pm

    This gives new meaning to the "presettlement" letters.

     

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  31.  
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    Jake, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:19am

    What Problem Is This Supposed To Solve?

    Nobody in their right mind would consider using this kind of software as anything other than a very general guideline, as human behaviour on an individual level is effectively impossible to model except in extremely broad strokes.

     

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  32.  
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    Cabal (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:46am

    Re:

    Because, as was pointed out several times, this is a _juvenile_ effort. The intent is to identify 'at risk' individuals and attempt to intervene in thier development.

    The unstated assumption is that if you can mitigate the potential for criminal behavior in the formative years, the behavior will not persist in adulthood.

     

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  33.  
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    Cabal (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:08am

    Dunno about you, but my gut is full of...

    I'm kinda staggered by the number of people that either didn't RTFA, or just assume they understand what this is about (and I include the author of this article apparently).

    Karl, while I understand where you were going, you totally misrepresented the purpose and intent of this technology. This isn't 'crime prediction software'. You can't hook this tool up to Google, and suddenly have an email pop out and say "Go to the corner of 12th st and Main. Wait three minutes, then arrest the teen with the red ball cap on. He's going to rob a liquor store tomorrow."

    This is a predictive analysis system. Kinda like the ones that hospitals are starting to use to flag potential child abuse visitation patterns. The intent is to actually USE the hundreds of thousands of individual case histories to try and rationalize the present, and perhaps, just perhaps get a little better at helping kids in the future.

    Does this tool have the potential to be abused? Sure. But in an environment where Corrections systems dollars are thin, isn't it in our best interest to use analytics to determine where to spend time and money? Otherwise, the situation remains unchanged: a bunch of overworked, underpaid civil servants poring over hard copy and relying on thier 'intuition' on who deserves the most help, and what help to give them.

    Dunno about you, but my gut is full of . It's not the place that literally life and death decisions should be made... at least, not if you can help it.

     

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  34.  
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    keenjimi, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    Re: How about the converse?

    The reason they will not apply this software to the betterment of society by predicting who will be a great leader is because the government already has it's leaders. They are already conditioning people for positions in governing. It is better for government to have absolute power over it's citizens by incorporating this software into our already unjust court system.

     

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  35.  
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    keenjimi, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    ... better yet, imagine a defendants lawyer's defending argument...."and according to IBM's software my client is guilty of murdering the lady sitting over in the witness chair ten years from now".. How the hell can we the people allow this to even become a reality. I swear if I knew how to prevent this from taking place I would.... Oh!! that is right IBM has already found a way of predicting crime. So somebody arrest the government because this bologna is a crime. A CRIME AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF THIS COUNTRY!! WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE SAYING "DON"T TREAD ON ME!!" Or our right to be innocent until proven guilty. The government has this idea that, because we do not stand up for our rights that they can walk all over us. You are all going to become slaves and you do not even realize it!!

     

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