Minority Report, In Real Life? (Infographic)

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The 2002 film Minority Report, based on a story by Philip K. Dick, showed worldwide audiences the promise of an incredible future in which crime was predicted, and stopped, before it ever occurred. However, the concept, while cool, also seemed completely unrealistic – how could we actually go about predicting crime if we don’t have any freaky, psychic ‘precogs’ to do the predicting for us? It turns out that computer systems using mounds of crime data and complex algorithms have actually had impressive success in stopping crime before it happens by predicting where and when a crime is likely to take place. The ultimate crimonologist’s fantasy is inching closer to reality – but is it a good thing? As we all know, Minority Report didn’t exactly end well.

Minority Report
Created by: Criminology

  • Jason

    While nothing is 100% accurate, this sort of “intelligent policing” can work. It can if wrongly used however be open to abuse if it is just used like profiling.

  • cranky critter

    What’s the supposed slippery slope? What am I missing here?

  • Angela

    First this, then its genetics that becomes the predictor. How far do we go?

  • Tully

    [snark]It’s a horrible bad thing to use IT to analyze crime patterns and actually prevent crime, so let’s stop that right now so we can enjoy higher crime rates![/snark]

    All that’s happening here is that the Mark 1.0 cop’s “intuition” and personal knowledge of crime patterns is being collectivized and quantified in a systematic way. It works for the same reason that experienced police officers have better arrest and clearance records than rookies — they know more about what’s actually happening in their areas and which persons are most likely responsible, and can adjust their actions accordingly for maximum effectiveness.

    This isn’t rocket surgery. If you know that a same-MO burglar is hitting printing businesses three times a week between midnight and 2 am in area A, you stake out printers in area A between midnight and 2am. And if you know that Joe Bob Burglar who’s been known to use that MO was released from prison two weeks before the pattern began, you keep an eye on Joe Bob at the appropriate times. If (and this is where the software REALLY helps) that pattern is being repeated across different beats you can tie in the combined knowledge of the officers in those areas. The software helps police find the patterns and use their resources more effectively, especially across patrol area lines. They still have to make their cases based on crimes actually committed using real evidence, not pattern predictors. The courts don’t much care HOW you came to be (legally) watching someone’s public actions, they care about the suffiiciency and admissibility of the evidence.

    Slippery slope? Yeah, when we suddenly acquire credible and court-admissible precognitive psychics by the boatload AND when our entire legal system is thrown out and replaced with one designed to corral and convict people who haven’t committed any crimes other than between their ears.

  • Angela

    It would facilitate, if not create, bias in the minds of police officers. Thats when police make their mistakes. It wouldn’t necessarily provide overwhelming evidence. On the contrary, if such technology is used in court, it could easily be argued down, if not turned around, to harm the prosecuting side.

  • khaki

    I’m with cranky – where’s the controversy? This is pattern recognition. At it’s most “slippery” the technology narrows the pool of “usual suspects”, and there is nothing slippery about identifying hotspots. Bring it.

  • Tully

    It doesn’t “facilitate bias,” it simply helps find useful patterns. Such as hotspots and serial crimes. The closest it comes to “bias” is Sutton’s Law.

  • Angela

    Its not controversial….yet.