Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said - Philip K. Dick (1974)
Philip K Dick was among the greatest sci-fi writers. He wrote award-winning books that became film noir classics like Bladerunner and Minority Report. Clearly, Dick was deeply suspicious of authority and technology.
I wonder if he'd agree with Malcolm Sparrow's critique of evidence-based policing? What would he think of mathematicians who want to solve the city with math? Or experiments to predict when or where crime will happen before it does?
And now NPR reports there's a new LAPD unit dedicated to predictive analysis. Some say this is our tomorrow. On closer inspection it seems like cost/benefit gone amok.
Minority Report celebrates PreCogs, mutated humans who predict murder ahead of time - celebrated until they predict murder by the cop supposed to stop it. Logical calculation gone amok?
In Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, modern philosopher John Ralston Saul says we must guard against the unsentimental application of cost/benefit analysis and logical calculation. That's why, he says, "experts" are so often wrong. There are some things we cannot accurately predict. Weather for one. The economy for another, as recent events prove.
This is particularly true regarding crime. Saul says when predictive experts fail they are just replaced by a new group who say they can do better.
Voltaire once warned against adopting a vulgar rationalism (aka predictive technology) to determine what is, and what is not, appropriate use of authority and technology.
If we are to use predictive technology, may 2012 be the year we wake up to our own shortcomings for using it wisely.