Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'd feel way better if it were wizards...

Check it out, the Chicago Police Department is using high tech sorcery to predict future crime! It's just like that Tom Cruise movie and it's-wai-wah? Which one? Really? Legend. I'm thinking of Legend. Anyway, it looks like we shall soon be living in a peaceful, crime-free utopia, resplendent in our futuristic kimonos and gorging ourselves on Taco Bell like in that Sylvester Stallone movie-yeah, sure, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Way to keep up.
Just kidding, it's Demolition Man. Of course, every utopia has a
 dark side, and this one suffers from a serious Rob Schneider problem.
"No daughter of mine's gonna 
marry no Macintosh..."
-Racist Computer
Back to the pre-crime. What's the CPD's secret? Time Cops? Wizards? Psychic mutants soaking in buttermilk? If you guessed 'racist computer,' congratulations, you win! The CPD is using a new predictive algorithm developed by some guy at Yale, to spit out a list (hilariously called 'the Heat List') of people it thinks are likely to commit a crime in the future. For example, if you committed a crime in the past, hang out with people who commit crimes or just live in a neighborhood where crimes are committed you might be on The Heat List. The program 'predicts' crime in the same way an elderly man predicts that those teenagers across the street are up to no good: by looking at them and deciding their dungarees are too low. What could possibly go wrong?

Ok, so say you're on the list, what then? A polite note taped to the front door? Nope, the cops come to your house and let you know that they're watching you. The department insists that the people on the list are hundreds of times more likely to commit a crime and that by keeping tabs on them and interacting with them in person they are reducing the chances that that person will get themselves into trouble someday.
It's sort of like this, except instead of a camera crew with
balloons and a giant check, it's the police with accusations.
We could have saved ourselves
a lot of trouble back in 2007.
Numbers don't lie, right? Statistically, someone raised in shitty circumstances, surrounded by violent criminals is in greater danger of becoming a criminal themselves than some rich kid in the suburbs. But an investment banker is way more likely than say, me, who doesn't even own a business guy suit, to commit fraud, evade taxes, or say, plunge the global economy into a devastating recession. So why aren't we knocking on the doors of MBA students at the University of Chicago and shaking an accusatory finger at them too?

I'm going to go with: because white people, but what do I know? Maybe this thing totally works, and everybody's just getting hung up on the blatant profiling. Still it's got to feel pretty bullshit to have the police knock on your door and tell you that you're probably going to fuck up and spend the rest of your life in prison because of your socio-economic circumstances.
"No, I wasn't planning on committing any
crimes today, but now I kind of want to..."

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