Simon’s Backup Weblog


Living in a grim meathook Philip K. Dick future…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on November 27, 2006

A while back I came to the conclusion we were living in a John Brunner future.

But now it’s sliding into a Philip K. Dick future, too. According to an article in the Times, UK police forces are setting up a pre-crime department…

Criminal profilers are drawing up a list of the 100 most dangerous murderers and rapists of the future even before they commit such crimes, The Times has learnt.

The highly controversial database will be used by police and other agencies to target suspects before they can carry out a serious offence. Pilot projects to identify the highest-risk future offenders have been operating in five London boroughs for the past two months.
[…]
Experts from the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Prevention Unit are creating psychological profiles of likely offenders to predict patterns of criminal behaviour. Statements from former partners, information from mental health workers and details of past complaints are being combined to identify the men considered most likely to commit serious violent crimes.
[…]
Ms Richards said that once an individual had been identified, police would decide whether to make moves towards an arrest, or to alert the relevant social services who could steer those targeted into “management programmes.”

The big question is: How accurate are these models? I’m sure the intentions are good (but then, we all know what paves the roads to Hell), but the risks of ruining innocent people’s lives are just too great.

“If it saves just one child” is a delightful sentiment, but how many families will be blighted by an incorrect profile?

A Philip K. Dick future, without the drug cushion…
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8 Responses to 'Living in a grim meathook Philip K. Dick future…'

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  1. cobrabay said,

    I’m hoping that they are taking their inspiration from the film version, that way even if we get a fatally flawed pre-crime department, we also get jet packs!

  2. zotz said,

    Tricky. Most of the people they’ll be worrying about will already have at least several convictions. It’ll mostly be a case of keeping track of people they’ve already picked up many times in the past.

  3. purplecthulhu said,

    And this will all be nicely helped along by ID cards and the NIDDB.

    Welcome to the Panopticon.

  4. codepope said,

    It’s worth noting that the HPU has been in existence for a while, and has been quite public over their modelling, based on pilot analysis.

    See http://www.safereturns.org.uk/docs/RiskyBusiness.pdf which is about domestic violence risk assessment involving the HPU and other agencies.

  5. sclerotic_rings said,

    Five years ago, I predicted that this decade could be summed up with a Stanley Kubrick film, and I kvetched that it was well on its way to resembling A Clockwork Orange more than 2001. Do I get my check for being a “noted futurist” yet?

  6. quercus said,

    No, the Panopticon only surveiled those who’d already been convicted.

    Don’t blame Jeremy Bentham for the All Seeing Eye of David Blunkett. Although a similar stuffing and mounting would seem in order…

  7. purplecthulhu said,

    I’m more thinking of Stross’ ‘Panopticon singularity’ and Vinge’s ‘ubiquitous law enforcement’ in this context, and not thumbing my nose at Bentham (although as an IC graduate, thumbing my nose at Bentham is a contractual obligation 🙂 ).

  8. micheinnz said,

    Oh bloody hell, that’s frightening.


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