Monday, October 10, 2011

Living in the future means thinking like an sf writer, pt. 4

As sf writer has already been there, of course (Philip K. Dick), only he posited psychics rather than software as the technological provider. Declan McCullagh, in Homeland Security Moves Forward with Pre-Crime "Detection," writes
An internal U.S. Department of Homeland Security document indicates that a controversial program designed to predict whether a person will commit a crime is already being tested on some members of the public voluntarily, CNET has learned.

If this sounds a bit like the Tom Cruise movie called "Minority Report," or the CBS drama "Person of Interest," it is. But where "Minority Report" author Philip K. Dick enlisted psychics to predict crimes, DHS is betting on algorithms: it's building a "prototype screening facility" that it hopes will use factors such as ethnicity, gender, breathing, and heart rate to "detect cues indicative of mal-intent."

McCullagh notes that "DHS calls its "pre-crime" system Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST." DHS is apparently thinking that once they finish testing it they'll be using it for airport screening, at border crossings, at sporting events and conventions.

(Link thanks to Liz Henry)

Sounds to me like profiling to the nth degree, no? But that's what technology sans civil rights and liberties will inevitably get you in a place like the US. Seems appropriate, their calling it "FAST," given that we seem to be stuck in a train on a really fast, greased track run by a gaggle of engineers who thinks brakes are a security threat (and are, anyway, for losers and sissies).

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