If you had the ability to go back in time to solve crimes, right wrongs, and pretty much make the world a better place, would you?
More importantly, should you?
This isn’t just a plot from Star Trek or from a movie like Timecop. It is a reality that is being made possible because of technology – and it isn’t as far fetched as it may seem. It involves drones and surveillance, a couple of hot-button topics that most are very leery of these days.
Recently NPR’s Radiolab had a show in which they explore a company that is using this technology to do surveillance. It was born out of combat in Fallujah and trying to figure out how to prevent roadside bombings in Iraq in 2004. The solution was simple; send up a drone to take a picture of the entire city every minute. The photos could then be analyzed for movement to detect what was going on.
If something bad happened, go back to the spot, zoom in. Track the different suspects in the image and retrace their steps by going back frame by frame in time. What emerged was a way to analyze images to track movements and find the sources that were giving the U.S. military problems.
Applications in the military sector often trickle down into the private sector and get here through the profit motive. There are many examples of this (Internet, email, etc.) and this is no exception. Turns out there are many potential applications for using this technology, albeit they come at a price. The price being our freedoms, or perhaps, our concepts of freedom.
Can we have an open and free society yet still allow for privacy? Privacy seems to be the antithesis of freedom yet some maintain it is an essential element. That said, a technology like the aforementioned would mean that no one has the ability to ‘opt out’. At the same time, the surveillance could lend a serious hand in helping to secure our society and help lessen the potential for serious tragedy and crime.
The recent shootings in San Bernardino, CA seem to create a perfect scenario. The original reports coming in had little meat in them; most did not (or were not able to) identify the suspects. Some said it was because of political correctness but regardless of the reasoning, the suspects were found very quickly and met with a tragic end of their own. Could this surveillance technology have been involved? Reports may not reveal such information but it could certainly play out in a scenario like this one. The only question is, should we allow it? Not can we do it – this very rarely the question that boils to the surface with technology – but instead should we do it?
Those that favor security will cry out ‘yes’! Those that favor freedom will be hesitant because of the subsequent amount of data that will emerge from such projects and then the question is, who will have a right to that information.
This technology, it should be noted, won’t prevent crimes, but will aid in apprehending criminals. This is, after all, what police officers are charged with doing – they are to respond to criminal acts and bring suspects in to face justice. This is not about pre-crime, so it would seem. Maybe this is the difference?