The Police is a body of personnel powered by the state to enforce the law, to protect and serve society, and to fight against criminal activity.
To assist the officers in being successful in their duty, the police force gives officers access to a range of different equipment and technologies which would aid and give them an advantage in their line of work. The question I pose is: What are the possibilities of the integration of future technology of the highest extent provide for the police force? And what are the effects on society?
Though the the possibilities of what’s to come and what may come seem endless. Let’s say if all these possibilities did become reality, and in the future would hit the very pinnacle of technological advancements. So every bit of future tech in movies were real. The perfect result that would come out of this would be; “A world where there is a 100% Success rate in crime solving and crime fighting”. Realistic? absolutely not. But let’s take ourselves out of reality here.
Police Technology in Film: Minority Report
Throughout cinema, there have been countless technologies which have been shown that predict future possibilities in technology. This ranges back to Woman on the Moon (1929) which predicts Space Travel, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which predicts technology such as Skype and HAL, Robocop (1987) which predicted Google Glass, and Dick Tracy (1990) which predicted Watch Phones.
A specific film which we will look at that has presented many future technologies, and offers a futuristic vision of the police force is Minority Report. The film takes place in 2054 where there is technology that is able to predict crimes before it happens, and the main character is wanted for a crime he hadn’t even had committed yet.
Directed by Stephen Spielberg, in an interview with Roger Ebert ahead of the film’s release he says
“I wanted all the toys to come true someday. I want there to be a transportation system that doesn’t emit toxins into the atmosphere. And the newspaper that updates itself…
The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. they can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us, and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us.”
The Technologies shown in Minority Report are as listed:
- Autonomous cars
- Insect robots
- Facial, Optical and Gesture recognition
- Crime prediction software
- Jet packs
- Multi touch interfaces
- Retina scanners
Ultimately the presence of all these technologies has allowed for a police force of this high caliber within the Minority Report universe. Within the film, the technology is deemed flawless, and police are capturing people who were going to commit a crime in the future. In this world we see a society heavily monitored by the police as algorithms are able to predict the next crime and the next criminal.
Current Use of Future Technology in the Police Force
Further new police technologies featured in the website Powerdms.com are
- Officer tracking in GPS
- Gunshot detection
- Vehicle pursuit darts- Tracking through GPS
- Facial recognition
- Lie Detectors
- 3D crime scene imaging
- Through wall radars
The Polygraph Test and it’s Dilemma’s
Before we go into what possibilities of technology there are, I’d first want to bring up the lie detector.
The polygraph test was invented in 1921, though an inadequate lie detector was made in 1902. “The classic polygraph lie detector measures response profiles in the autonomic nervous system of a particular test subject. Thus, it will measure things like heart rate, galvanic skin response, systolic blood pressure and so on”. From here you can determine if a suspect is speaking truth or lies.
However there are many features of the polygraph test which play a part in the results, and in a court room the Polygraph test aren’t usually admissible unless both parties agree. This leads us to the polygrapher’s dilemma:
- (1) If a person is faced with a choice between two courses of action (A, B) each of which is morally undesirable, then they are confronted with an ethical dilemma.
- (2) In administering a CQT, a polygrapher can either: (a) ask control questions that are markedly less disturbing than the relevant questions; or (b) ask control questions that are emotionally equivalent to the relevant questions.
- (3) If they ask control questions that are markedly less disturbing than the relevant questions, the test will result in a high number of false positives, which is undesirable for a variety of reasons.
- (4) If they ask control questions that are emotionally equivalent to the relevant questions, the test is likely to be traumatic to the innocent test taker, which is undesirable for a variety of reasons.
- (5) Therefore, in administering the CQT, the polygrapher faces an ethical dilemma.
The perfect enhancement of the lie detector is if it was upgraded to the point where the Polygrapher’s dilemmas above ceased to exist. If the lie detector provided truth 100% of the time. Would this ever be possible?
Maybe. Maybe not. But let’s assume in a proposed universe it was…..
There will always be dilemmas to do with the lie detector as there are too many factors to consider. The mental state of the suspect. The perception of the suspect. How the suspect may react to triggering questions. If the right questions are asked. Even if the success rate is perfect, there will always be controversy against this.
So why bring this up? because as we go through the next sections, you may realise the more advanced technologies we may come up with, the more ethical dilemmas may arise. Just like that of the lie detector.
Though the technology in the film Minority Report has been addressed, to think beyond what it presents would offer a much clearer image of the extent of how powerful the police force could be.
Now imagine a world, not necessarily a dystopian setting such as Blade Runner, but similar to that of today, except a lot more technology based and technology dependant. Yes. A lot more technology dependant than now.
The police have access to extremely advanced technology that make them a near invincible force. So what exact technology do they have access to? and what are the effects? We will break it down into 4 categories of what possibilities there are. There is Forensics, Weapons and Tech, Surveillance and Artificial Intelligence.
Forensics and Crime Solving
The CSI effect is a belief held primarily among law enforcement personnel and prosecutors that forensic science television dramas, such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, influence American jurors to expect more forensic evidence to convict defendants of crimes.
In short, the crime solving TV shows and films we watch illustrates an image of how crime solving is done. Find fingerprints, put it on the system, a name pops up and there you have it, you make an arrest and the credits come on. Unfortunately the reality is that it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
But what if the CSI effect mentality was reality? What if DNA did take minutes not days. What if facial recognition technology immediately gives suspect’s whereabouts and all information in a click. What if crimes really could really be solved within a 60 minute time frame with 3 commercials in between, an intro and credits, and a late night talk show afterwards. What if lie detectors would provide the truth 100% of the time.
The television show Black Mirror has a wide variety of future technologies, but one that is utilised by the police in solving a crime is featured in the episode White Christmas starring John Hamm. There were little bean sized chips called cookies that were able to completely replicate the consciousness of a person and used for purposes such as being a personal assistant to that person. The consciousness, still believing they were it’s real version were eventually led to a catatonic state by altering it’s perception of time as the cookie would experience 6 months of nothingness when in reality it was a few minutes.
During the episode two characters are at a isolated house who have been there for years and are exchanging stories of their life before living there. Both reveal their darkest secrets and crimes. At the end of the episode, we find out that this was all taking place within a “cookie” and John Hamm’s character was getting a confession out of the suspect’s “cookie”. After the confession is made within the cookie, officers go to the real life version of this character in his jail cell who has been refusing to talk and let’s him know that they know what happened. In the conclusion of the episode, the officers decide to change the setting of the cookie to a thousand years a minute and leaves the cookie on all Christmas, torturing this AI.
This piece of technology, while here shown can be used to get a confession that would have taken a long period of time, resources and effort in real life, there are numerous ethical dilemmas present.
- Is this considered torture since the cookie has human consciousness?
- Is this a glorious way of crime solving?
- Are the new problems that present themselves worth making the present problems easier to work around?
- What happens when this technology get’s in the wrong hands
These questions are definitely important to ask and many are relevant to every other technology. The last question is the one which would strike the most concern. We’ll get to that later
Weapons and Tech
To build on technology in Minority Report, other technologies that may come to fruition in time stems from many presented in the film industry. A specific type of film I will delve into a spy movies such as James Bond and Mission Impossible. To give you a gist of what possibilities we are talking. Watch the video below
Imagine the police utilising all these technologies from this video and more? imagine they use invisibility armour to use on raids, self driving cars, 3D printers that make face masks for them to go undercover or real time search systems which analyses every camera in the world looking for a specific suspect?
Weapons are also a big element to consider in the development of technology. Weapons are the primary tool that is used to assist officers in fighting crime. They have guns, batons and pepper spray. Now while weapons of this caliber have been the standard of the arsenal of equipment police are able to use to fight crime, there can be enhancements of these in future that could pose more threats;
- Pistol’s with the power of shotguns
- Lightsabers (Imagine!!!!!)
- Pen/shoe gun (Like from James Bond)
- Laser guns
Now with all these technologies and weapons able to be utilised by the police force at any given time or situation. Could this pose more dangerous outcomes rather than safe ones? We’ll get to that later
The film below Pre Crime shows that techniques and technologies shown in Minority Report are certainly in effect.
The premise of Minority Report coming to reality is shown in this film and exposes a modern world where there is eyes on everything, and everything is monitored.
Algorithms are created which puts people who are at risk of committing a crime on a list and there is no way of getting your name out. The technology has free reign to monitor anyone and anywhere which consequently infringes in the privacy of people
The public are protected by surveillance laws such as the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 or the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979
Ethical problems that present itself with Predictive Policing is that, while yes it help police stop a crime before it happens, but how could it be fair to arrest someone for a crime they hadn’t yet committed? That is definitely the main issue, but let’s assume in this universe where police technology has reached it’s peak, predictive policing tech is absolutely flawless.
But with the further development of surveillance techniques where there are eyes on everything, these movements could make these laws irrelevant, especially to the police. Would the public trust the police with this extent of freedom in Surveillance? we’ll get to that soon
Artificial Intelligence and Police?
Other than high tech equipment being utilised by the police force, the premise of Artificial Intelligence would be an interesting addition. Rather than having to risk the lives of officers in situations such as bank heists, attacks, raids, if there were a presence of AI that were programmed to do what highly trained officers could do, even better, would they be used?
Scenario: Highly dangerous criminal organisation’s whereabouts have been found and police planned a raid. The criminal group is known to be holding a large array of weapons and will shoot to kill.
If the police had Robo-cop like Cyborg’s in their arsenal, would they send a team of them in (maybe with the leadership of a human officer) or would they send in just human officers?
It’s hard to picture an outcome where they don’t send in any of these robo-cops, however you can imagine they’d utilise the leadership of an elite officer.
Though this idea would both present great advantages to the force, All you really need to do is watch every movie that has Artificial intelligence in it to know things can go VERY VERY wrong;
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Blade Runner
- The Terminator
All of these films features AI which rebel against humanity in their own different ways. One of the most early depictions of AI is in the form of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Below we’ll list down the good and the bad
Advantages of AI
- Avoidance of “Human Error”
- Possibility of the greatest degree of accuracy in a work
- They can do monotonous and repetitive work- Paperwork, finding documents, evidence
- Ability to commit actions without emotion
- Performing tasks which would be considered deadly to humans
- Job Losses for offciers
- Inability to be human- Lack of instinct, no moral values, decision making based on program
- Ability to become human- AI may develop feelings, they could rebel
- Hard to trust
- Criminals might have access to their own AI
- If compromised, may turn into a killing machine (Terminator)
In retrospect to the this, if police were able to develop 100% trustworthy Artificial Intelligence and Cyborg’s that have a guarantee that they would not be compromised or could malfunction, and work as if it was a perfectly trained officer, would it be beneficial to society? We’ll get to that later
Okay you probably noticed that the end of each section before this ended with a question that “We’ll get back to later”. So now is later. So now that the possibilities have been addressed, what would this mean for society?
Now at first glance the vision of a perfect police force seems to be very appealing. But the questions to ask are; Will this make the world a safer place? Probably more safer than today. Will this make the police force more effective in crime fighting? certainly. Will there be a large impact on society? Definitely. Would this make the police force more trustworthy?…….and that’s where the line can be marked
Should society trust police? yes. But do they?
There has always been a divide in opinions of police, and very justifiable. You always hear of crooked officers, police mistreating the public, police brutality, police discriminating. While this is a minority, a study in 2016 shows that about 1,100 police officers are arrested a year, otherwise on average 3 a day.
This draws back to the 4 categories above
Forensic and crime solving technology will invade personal rights, creating situations where a person absolutely has no way of winning a case. Even if they’re innocent, if somehow evidence points to them, then with the technology at hand they would be found guilty.
The police having weapons could pose dangerous risks to the community as police brutality is a common occurrence, with more weapons at hand, there is higher and escalating risks of people getting hurt, even people not involved but are near the area. Corrupt police with this technology would be dangerous to the society.
Surveillance technologies would eliminate personal rights in society, and consequently people would feel more unsafe that they are all being watched rather than safe. With tech to determine whether you commit a crime or not, it still stands that you have not committed a crime.
And Artificial Intelligence….Well like I said…All you have to do is watch ANY film that deals with AI. Well ALMOST every film with AI show how bad things can get.
All of these factors would culminate in society not feeling a sense of safety, but the complete opposite; Fear.
In this theorised universe the police would have supreme power to enforce the law, to protect and serve society, and to fight against criminal activity. The pinnacle of the advancements of technology would make the police a near invincible force.
While this will certainly result in a world virtually safe of street crimes, murders and robbery, more problems arise from this. A society that may fear the police more than they would fear criminals.
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