In science fiction, and more specifically in Philip K. Dick, the police used mutants to track down crimes… before they are committed. The news is now known through Steven Spielberg’s film, Minority Report. As is often the case, Dick’s terrifying world is caught up in reality—to believe that dick finds the novelist’s worlds enviable…
In Minority Report, threemutants are used to predict crime within the company Precrime. These cognitives read the future, and thus anticipate illegal actions: practice, the police only have to pick the culprits before they are even.
When you don’t have mutants…
In the world of GAFA, we don’t have mutants, but we have artificial intelligence. And despite the dubious uses that are made of these machines, it seems that a consciousness has developed among the giants of high-tech.
TWITTER: to anticipate crimes
We learn that more than 2000 experts, academics, specialists in ICT, but also organizations like MIT, Microsoft, Harvard and even Google, denounce a study that should be released by the scientific publisher, Springer.
The latter, a straight line of Minority Report, intends to use artificial intelligence to predict crimes — but this time using a facial recognition system. An algorithm model is set up and described by researchers at the University of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania.
Springer, based in Berlin, is to publish the document A Deep Neural Network Model to Predict Criminality Using Image Processing, but is facing a staggering outcry.
Automated facial analysis
Their automated facial recognition software would be able to predict whether someone will possibly become a criminal. And in response, a whole coalition is banding together to denounce the process, dubious, and above all, the risks of racist abuse — the coded algorithm would end up based on racial prejudice…
On the Medium platform, the signatories go wild: the project is renamedTechToPrisonPipeline — or technological pipes to the prison. A kind of “gothrough the facial recognition box, go straight to jail, because you displeased a machine”. At least in K. Dick, mutants are humans…
Especially since the murder of George Floyd, which occurred on May 25, is still fresh in the memory, and that the use of “criminal forensic statistics to predict crime” would not help to ease tensions. The Coalition for Critical Technology, which signed the open letter, thus demonstrated a fund of humanity, hidden under the silicone. And asks all scientific publishers to ensure that similar studies are not published now or in the future.
Of course, the machines behind AI are not racist per se. However, “they reproduce and amplify discriminatory results.” Especially since the tools are based on “unreliable scientific premises, research and methods, as many other studies covering our respective disciplines demystify over the years,” the experts add.
Proof by three
And to point out three major pitfalls: the first is that of crime itself, which is implicitly based on racial prejudice, from the moment it analyzes a face. “Countless studies have shown that people of color are treated more harshly than white people, in similar situations, at different levels of the legal system. This leads to serious distortions in the data. The
other point is machine learning, and therefore the reliability of AI. While efforts provide apparent rigour, it misses many criteria — linguistic, cultural, behavioural, and even implicit.
PRECRIME: the nightmare come true
Finally, the third point is that of a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. Any criminal forecasting technology “replicates injustices and causes real harm” to victims of a justice system that is far from exemplary. Especially since the researchers stress the importance that their algorithms will take “as a significant advantage to enforcement agencies and other intelligence agencies, to prevent crime.”
The Criminal Man, by Cesare Lombroso
For the Coalition’s signatories, we live in a time “where the legitimacy of the prison state and police services in particular is being challenged.” And we demand more respect for people, in order to break with “historical violence” and the fear instituted. Predicting crimes on the basis of such fragile analyses will only reinforce fears of growing injustice. It is true that Balzac made warm gorges of physiognomony and phrenology, in portraits of his characters. The skull of a man in his form then said a lot about his psyche. Similarly, the Italian criminologist, Cesare Lombroso, had painted a
portrait of typical criminals,classified according to regions of Bel Paese. The fantasy of social pre-determination and an inclination to crime, by morphology, has hard skin. As long as it remained conscripted to the field of literature, one could breathe…
Illustration: Geralt, CC 0