I've long stood that, despite its implausible premise of using psychic powers to predict murders, Minority Report has some of the most realistic futurism ever presented in a movie. Well it turns out I may have to soon amend that stance. Oh, things like the person-specific ads, the retinal scanners, the eInk displays and the touch free GUIs are all still great bits of fully-realized futurism, but it turns out I may have been wrong about the feasibility of predicting future crimes.
Richard Berk, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has just been awarded a new grant to build and expand a computer model that can be used to predict whether or not a potential parolee is likely to kill again upon release.
From The Morning Call (via Dvice):
I'm a huge nerd who is all for technical innovation, but even I think that is a little ... creepy. I barely trust computer systems to accurately forecast the weather as it is, so I'm highly suspect of a system that is designed to predict whether or not a human being is going to kill again once he/she is released from jail. As for how it will work, Berk is planning on pulling down a legion of statistics about past offenders to try and discern what the indicators are, if any, for repeat violations. Once a convict is eligible for parole, their profile will be scanned for possible indicators and that will then be factored into the board's decision to release them or not."This system can forecast which inmates will kill again," Berk said. "With the help of years of computer data, I can separate the really bad guys being released from the people who probably won't re-offend."
It's already being used by probation departments in Philadelphia and Baltimore to enable authorities to more closely supervise potential killers. Pennsylvania's embattled parole board plans to be the first to use it to help it decide whether an inmate should be released."
I think the logic behind it is promising, and I'm all for the prevention of crime, but this is the kind of grey area that's hard to wrap your head around. At least it seems as though Berk agrees with that:
If the system is implemented, I wonder how long it will be before a parolee's lawyer rolls a ball down a courtroom table to see whether or not the State's lawyer catches it..."No matter how good the models are, they're going to miss some bad guys and flag some guys who maybe would not have committed another crime," Berk said. "But we now have the technology to do better than we've been doing."