In the 2002 movie Minority Report, police make use of ‘precogs’ – people with the ability to dream of crime before it happens – to arrest suspects for wrongs they have yet to commit. This works well, even driving down murder to near-zero levels, until the head of the Pre-Crime Unit is accused of pre-murder and is hunted down by his own team. He then goes on a perilous quest to find out how in the world he would commit the premeditated murder of someone he doesn’t know in just 36 hours.
Great speculative fiction, right? Well, Slate has recently posted an article of how certain types of crime have begun to be predicted in real life with sci-fi accuracy. Author Christopher Beam tells of how police departments are beginning to harness statistical data to help them predict where crime might strike next:
Predictive policing is based on the idea that some crime is random—but a lot isn’t. For example, home burglaries are relatively predictable. When a house gets robbed, the likelihood of that house or houses near it getting robbed again spikes in the following days.
And the reason? He goes on to share how human nature is predictable:
Data-driven law enforcement shows that the criminal mind is not the dark, complex, and ultimately unknowable thing of Hollywood films. Instead, it’s depressingly typical—driven by supply, demand, cost, and opportunity.
One of my favorite authors, G.K. Chesterton says it this way:
Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.
I guess the lesson here is that we all suffer from human nature.
Speaking of thievery, please absolve me from mine! Head on over to Slate to read the article I so heavily borrowed from.