Dr. Helen

Can Computers Predict Who Will Turn to Crime?

And should they? New work is being done to predict who will re-offend:

Is it possible to predict whether someone will commit a crime some time in the future?

It sounds like an idea from the 2002 science-fiction movie Minority Report.

But that’s what statistical researcher Richard Berk, from the University of Pennsylvania, hopes to find out from work he’s carried out this year in Norway.

The Norwegian government collects massive amounts of data about its citizens and associates it with a single identification file.

Berk hopes to crunch the data from the files of children and their parents to see if he can predict from the circumstances of their birth whether a child will commit a crime before their 18th birthday.

The problem here is that newborn babies haven’t done anything yet.

The possible outcome of Berk’s experiment would be to pre-classify some children as ‘likely criminals’ based on nothing more than the circumstances of their birth.

This could be the first step in making Minority Report a reality, where people could be condemned for crimes they haven’t even committed.

You can bet that politics will play a part in the process of determining who to target for violence. Men who might commit domestic violence will be suspect while women will not; those who might harm others for left-leaning political causes will probably get a pass too.