Could you help create a program that predicts terror attacks before they happen?

terrorism


Have you seen that movie? The one where psychics predict when humans are about to commit murder and they are arrested before it ever happens. Tom Cruise stars as an innocent man being chased by a government convinced he is going to commit a crime. The film was set in 2054, a not too distant future.

‘Minority Report’ really was a good watch.


terrorist alert


Well, now our Government are developing a similar type of technology. The ‘Unblinking Eye’ is designed to predict terrorist attacks before they happen. The behavior recognition technology is supposed to recognize suspicious activities and help law enforcement identify the culprits before they can do any damage.

Those with the know-how are invited to bid for a share of the £5 million in funding and top-level operatives in the Ministry of Defense are creating tests to find people who would be suitable to assist in the development stages of the program.


cameras watching


It does pose several ethical questions though.

As seen in ‘Minority Report’, will we soon be living in a world where cameras study our every move? What is the next step when this technology is invented? Will designers then focus efforts on developing software to predict other types of crime?


arrested

What evidence will be required to convict someone when the crime has been predicted? Will evidence collected using the ‘Unblinking Eye’ be admissible in court? What if the program is flawed and does make mistakes? Will innocent people be put in prison?

We are living in scary times, after the attacks last year, everyone is on edge. We all want to be safer and we want to identify these despicable villains before they perform heinous crimes, but are we creating more problems for ourselves.


running away

The system will identify suspicious behavior that it has been programmed to recognize, for example, someone running away. It will also separate images into layers and analyze the layers separately to identify changes in the landscape – for example, an abandoned backpack. Police will then be directed to areas as and when they are required.

I have a few questions about how this system will identify different types of behavior.


people running


How will they differentiate between someone running for a train and someone running away after planting a bomb? How will they distinguish someone’s forgotten luggage from a hidden device of mass destruction? Are we going to be chased down by the police every time we forget something?


multi people


Will the system look for other characteristics? Will racial profiles play a part? How is that fair?

There are going to have to be other ways of narrowing down the number of suspicious activities it will pick up. Does this open it up to bias? 


computer technology


It is an understatement to say the release of this kind of technology would unsettle me. Any technology can easily be corrupted and used for other purposes. Are we ready for this?

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