Can Artificial Intelligence Detect Crime Before It Happens?

Can Artificial Intelligence Detect Crime Before It Happens?Pre-crime sounds like something out of George Orwell’s 1984, a glimpse at a society ruled by a tyrannical government that surveils its citizens in their homes and on the street. The language of its people is altered in order to prevent talk of revolt and everyone is on high alert due to a perceived clear and present danger that a neighbor may well be working with the country’s sworn enemy. Seemingly normal behavior is seen as a sign of defiance, and that defiance is punishable as a pre-crime. This is also one of the central ideas behind the Minority Report, a movie (based on a story by Philip K. Dick) about a world of tomorrow where crime is prevented by acting on predictions of future events.

Imagine taking a ride on the subway when suddenly you’re struck with a terrible headache, or your stomach begins to rumble. You may look around frantically in an attempt to find an exit to your terminal. You may even break out in a sweat or appear nervous. This is a common sign, even in people with minor social anxiety. What if I were to tell you that an artificial intelligence connected to a series of surveillance cameras could alert the authorities to your unusual behavior?

There is, and it’s being deployed in the US right now. San Francisco is ready to install 288 of these crime-predicting cameras around its subway system, which will then be empowered to text (or call) guards and even shut down trains if anomalous behavior is uncovered.

The Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL will also be closely watched by these electronic psychics later this month.

Is this surveillance out of control? Does anyone have any privacy anymore? The reasons behind this type of heightened security range from accident avoidance to potential terrorist attack. Still, if we’re going to trust computers to determine who is and isn’t suspicious, then we’ve lost the greater battle here.

Artificial intelligence, like anything, can be fooled. It can miss things, despite being “trained” by its programmers. This lures human security into a false sense of… security. It’s easy to overlook what you can see because the safety net of an advanced artificial brain calculating facial expressions and tracking objects is on the job.

I’ve worked in security before at one of the largest computer manufacturing facilities in the US. All the processes and standards in the world amount to nothing against intuition and common sense. Unfortunately, you can’t teach common sense to a computer. You can only tell it that, if eyebrows are furrowed in this way, or the body heat of a passenger escalates to this point, there may (or may not) be cause for alarm.

Homeland Security is estimating that money currently being spent on artificial intelligence units such as these will quadruple in the next four years. That makes it a multi-billion dollar industry. Someone makes a lot of money off this, and until I see stories showing that these programs have actually saved lives, I’m not a big fan of them. That money could go into other public works projects like hiring people to make sure things are safe, or improving the conditions of the subway systems in the first place.

If you ask me, this type of technology isn’t ready for prime time. I feel sorry for anyone that undergoes questioning or search because a machine said they look suspicious. Isn’t it bad enough that we’re being tracked in the first place?

CCTV Camera by Colin Russell

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Tony Tone

    wowzers, sounds terrifying and it is just mind boggling . It is sad also yes I was standing inside an airport i’m not sure if they have it in airports but every step around the airport you can feel the tension in the air see the confused faces on every one and I sort of felt like I was in a movie every thing I did from moving my hands to walking to just standing in one place waiting for baggage , waiting for family members I just felt so deprived and vulnerable and violated. Surveillance gives a bad impression we are not living right.
    Technology has been on the rise heavily i’m an 80’s baby literally there wasn’t any type of heavy technology back then, and we did not have HD, high definition or Fiber optics wasn’t a digital era at all and now that we are in a digital era , a technological era yes it could be a blessing but it could also be a weapon. anyways kudos. great article. Also I think technology is where its at it is at its peak, and umm I could speculate that what’s out there for the public is there but there is more to just A.I’s .

  • sdeforest

    In Britain, much more than in the US, automobiles are under automated video surveillance. In my city, we have no red light cameras due to public pressure. But in Britain, your driving progress can be continuously monitored. Think of the uses this information could be put to. Predictive results could be good, but the possibility of abuse is high. The trouble is that the people who do the abusing think that they are acting in the best interests of the public. That is, they think they are good people. Relatively few people do bad things knowingly.

  • Tony Tone

    Hope my comment wasn’t too weird hahaha

  • Maximilian Majewski

    In Sweden, privacy is pretty much a luxury only granted to the royal family. It’s very easy for you to find out anything on me, including how much I earn or how much tax I pay. I say this over and over, and I’ll say it again. I have no privacy issues. I use many services for free, and in return they’ll know who I am. Sometimes it can even be helpful.
    i welcome more surveillance.

  • Qassim Farid

    Do you have any privacy at all in public streets and subways anyway? I don’t really understand the concern with having cameras watching public areas.

    • Maximilian Majewski

      Exactly. If you have lived in London, you’ll be watched everywhere 😉

  • Tory Wright

    I think it would be difficult to convict someone of a crime that is yet to be committed because of the lack of hard evidence that the situation would yield. The average consumer has a camera that likely surpasses the quality of a security cam readily available in a mobile device. I can’t help but think that a system so adverse to change could be at anything but a disadvantage. The more I age the more I think privacy is not a pressing concern of the general public as opposed to personal freedom and I don’t believe the two to be entangled but quite the opposite.

  • Ryan White

    DARPA has been developing high density ccds (camera sensors) with resolutions of 50 Gigapixels… This level of detail not only can take cameras off the street but eventually as the tech becomes smaller than a car get integrated into drones. With this level of detail a camera a mile away can read your cell phone screen… not cool.

    This technology coupled with artificial intelligence to find suspicious behavior could bring about the paradigm that they could justify arresting people because a computer found some bio-metric anomalies that are suggestive of criminal behavior. This would be a justification to throw out probable cause and thus our right to not be subject to search and seizure without just cause.

  • Dan Czarnecki

    I think this would be pretty spooky for many people. Sure, it could possibly help lower crime rates, but I don’t think that it will happen anytime soon.

  • Uthman Baksh

    It’s kinda creepy! You can’t really be suspicious of someone based on the way they act. What if they have a disorder causing them to behave unusual? Does the AI surveillance take people with disabilities into account? They act weird but usually are benign. Could this lower crime? Well I can say other extreme police measures like Stop and Frisk actually harm more than help. So this is like the digital version of that. Picking on you even if you weren’t gonna do anything.

  • Zain Siddiqui

    This technology is cool but creepy. I think that the people developing this are trying to do what Google Now is doing by trying to find out what you want. In most cases, people don’t want to be tracked just by the off chance that a machine reports something is up.

  • scallawagon

    i have to go thru a machine at every airport which looks thru my clothes. i have my hands swabbed for (i guess) explosives dust or something after they look my body over. they look inside my shoes. what’s next. i guess they probably already are looking at whether or not i furrow my brow. :(