Thanks to continuing advances in computer technology, innovation is advancing at ever more rapid rates. Moore’s law states that processing speed and data capacity are doubling every 18 months, causing an exponential increase in computing power. (It’s actually predicted that computer intelligence and biological intelligence will be indistinguishable within 40 years – a point in time called singularity.) Here we review some of the latest innovations and consider how they will change our lives in the future – a future that is not very far away.

How “Predictive” Software Might Prevent Crimes

In the 2002 Tom Cruise Sci-fi movie Minority Report, people are arrested before crimes occur, and a machine that can predict a crime before it happens is used in a weekly CBS-TV drama Person of Interest.

That’s still mostly fiction, but early forms of this type of predictive policing can be attempted today because of the huge amount of digital data on individuals that is collected and analyzed for numerous purposes.

While working as the chief privacy officer for an online provider of background checks, Jim Adler created software that he says proves just how a few details about a person might eventually be used to estimate the chances of that person committing a felony.

Out of tens of thousands of criminal records the company
Owned, Adler focused only on a few details about each person – including gender and eye color, the number of traffic tickets and minor offences, and whether that person had tattoos. Based on that data alone – excluding any info about felonies – he said he developed an algorithm that determined with reasonable accuracy whether that individual had committed a serious crime.

He believes a bigger sample with more historical information could be used to develop even more sophisticated software that would become a “felon predictor.” Score could even be assigned to individuals.

Some law enforcement agencies say early forms of predictive software are already helping them. Los Angeles police say programs that analyze broad patterns to identify trouble “hot spots” Have resulted in declines in property crimes, while Memphis police noted a drop in robberies, burglaries and rape with the help of such programs.

The use of physical characteristics such as hair, eye and skin color to predict
future crimes worries civil libertarians because these factors are proxies for race and could reinforce profiling and discriminatory practices in hiring, lending and law enforcement. But many believe controls will be devised to prevent abuses.

Adler believes the technology will keep advancing and that the chief benefit will be to tip off authorities in time to prevent terrorist attacks like the Boston bombings, gang related offenses, and mass murders like those that occurred in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. IPF