Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bring On The Dystopia!

     In my line of work, the Engineering department ends up subscribed to a wide array of more-or-less-related magazines.  Our own trade magazines are pretty much gone, victims of a shinking, backwater industry, so we glean what we can from similar fields.

     One of the magazines that shows up is GCN, Government Computer News, aimed at data-herders and IT folks in the public sector.  It's a nice, glossy mag with lots of vaguely-worded ads.  The most recent issue had an article noted on the cover: 'Minority Report' for real.

     I was taken aback.  The film and original short story are tales of free will vs. determinism, and paint the "prediction" of crimes as a fraught, abusable and perhaps even poisonous gift, dangerous to use and invasive of freedom.  In  actual application, the biases and implicit assumptions of programmers can (and will) skew results.  The intersection of Big Data and "precrime" is not a good neighborhood for free people, and yet that's right where the article heads, lauding "New analytical leverage this digital ocean...."

     The piece is blithely unconcerned with potential problems or Constitutional issues, ending with a quote from a former NSA analyst now working in the private sector: "Humans have short lives and simple habits.  The basics of 'The Minority Report' are not only going to happen, they will happen sooner than we think."

     Yeah. "...short lives and simple habits..."  Please face the telescreen, Comrade! Bloody hell, they really do think Orwell was writing a guide to governance, and that Philip K. Dick's amphetamine-fueled paranoid fantasies are police manuals.


JayNola said...

I'm reminded of Jurassic Park: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.".
Substituting engineers of course.

Rick T said...

Data scientists have a lot of fun with sanitized data sets but when you move out to the ugly exception-filled Real World high-jinks follow.

I'm sure the engineers at Tesla never expected to handle the case where a truck with a white box trailer pulls across the highway when the sky was white as well. Not enough contrast so the car went under the trailer at full speed. Too bad for the driver who had been ignoring the road for the last 30 minutes or so (per the accident report).

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Tam said...

The literally inevitable...and yes, Lana, I know what "literally" means...outcome of massive relational databases, tiny ubiquitous digital cameras, data storage so cheap as to be effectively free, and everybody carrying a microphone with a GPS transponder in their pocket, is that the world of the future is going to make Privacy an expensive fetish for the rich or an unintended benefit of being absolutely destitute.