Should This Exist? – A question the software industry should must ask itself

Each day we see new technological advancements being made that blow our minds out. Recently, Elon Musk has been surprising us with SpaceX’s unmanned rockets landing back on Earth for reuse. This is great! Space exploration can truly mark the future of humanity and take us to another level. You can also talk about electric cars becoming more and more popular, with Tesla releasing all its patents in an effort to fight climate change.

However there are some technologies that just get us closer to a futuristic dystopia of surveillance, corporation governments and unnecessary technology.

If you have seen Tom Cruise’s Minority Report (2002) or read the book it is based on by Phillip K. Dick, you may remember that it is a story where PreCrime, a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”. This system is all about determinism (all events are determined completely from previous causes) versus free will.

Now this same systems are being implemented in countries like China, where massive surveillance and facial recognition systems allow the government to keep an eye on their citizens very closely, coming as close to rating their support for the government and giving them benefits according to their political views, as well as restricting them access to certain things like travel if the government realizes that the citizen’s views are not aligned with the government’s interests. A system like the one in Minority Report would suggest that if I search up about terrorism, bomb attacks, serial killers or similar, I may be a threat to my community or government. We can imagine a Smart City where the police has to do little work and most work is done by a surveillance system that captures every one of our move, while police is only dispatched when the system has decided that there is an event of importance going down that needs the intervention of the authorities. Should this exist?

Not really, letting algorithms decide wether someone is guilty or is about to commit is a crime completely removes the innocent until proven guilty status that democracies are popular for. The system assumes you are guilty even before committing the crime and decides that you should be imprisoned for an act you supposedly have yet to commit. We must really take into account the ethical dilemma of creating new technologies that may affect the lives of people these days, as new technologies becoming more and more entangled in our daily lives.

 

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