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Author Topic: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?  (Read 4325 times)

Offline cheryl j

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Sorry for the clumsy title.

While I was in the hospital I got hooked on a show called Person of Interest. Its an American show about an AI machine that monitors human activity via cameras set up in public places, or has access to security cameras already set up in buildings, stores, businesses etc. and I think things like cell phone activity In the show, the "machine" was designed to pick up terrorist activity, but also picks up other criminal activity, and the government discards this information as "irrelevant,"  but the inventor of the machine and a friend start trying to help these people and intervene. When somebody's number pops up, they don't always know why at first or whether they are a victim or a perpetrator, and have to piece together what is happening, and that is how each episode starts out.

Anyway, I've been thinking about The Machine, and what an actual AI person would think about it. Also what other kinds of social problems/ correlations could be gleaned from an intelligent computer that just collected huge amounts of information on  mostly physical interactions.

I know it's just a tv show and fiction, but it seems like a interesting concept.
Feel free to move this to just chat if it's too speculative or unrealistic. 
« Last Edit: 24/10/2014 06:26:07 by cheryl j »


 

Offline alancalverd

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It's a neat idea and to some extent feasible if you have adequate facial or gait recognition software. The TV show makes some subtle points:

The software is a bit simpler if you don't need to name the POI, as it merely tracks a few "face A"'s from an incident,

You can even define an "incident" by the spatiotemporal noise profile of an image, without a human monitor

You can backtrack an identifiable Face A to find precursor events or associations

If you don't need to name the face, you don't need anyone's consent or even knowledge, to track them.

Thus far, it's little more than an extension of currently available pattern recognition software as used in particle physics and radiology, though the "extension" requires a hell of a lot more computing power. The use of fuzzy logic and neural structures might make it feasible if less precise.

The ethical problems arise from the fact that it is tracking everyone at all times, and relies on the tacit cooperation of all citizens to show their faces. If you wear a uniform with a helmet, or a burka, you look pretty much like everyone else, so any motorbike courier or godfearing muslim woman looks just as guilty (or just as much a victim) as the real perpetrator/victim.

On the upside, if it helps track baddies and amass evidence of intent or whereabouts, it looks like a Good Thing, but to what extent should society allow anyone to track anyone else? A concerned carer like you might find it useful to locate a demented old idiot like me who has gone walkabout, but what right do I have to interfere in the life of a maverick genius like you who doesn't want to be incarcerated by morons like me?

The TV show makes the point that these are cases dismissed as "irrelevant" by the police. Next problem: if every case is relevant, how many police officers/social workers/private security agents to you need to follow them up? I can see a democratised 1984 scenario where everyone is stalking everyone else and nobody does anything useful or interesting. In any group of n people there are n! possible interactions, so if we track everyone and make the data available to everyone, we will all spend all our time watching each other. Given the current state of British television, perhaps it would be an improvement. 
 

Offline David Cooper

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It sounds like a well thought out show. Because most people carry mobile phones these days, identification becomes easy. The few people who don't carry them or who keep them switched off will stand out from the crowd and be tracked just as effectively as the rest, and people planning to commit crimes are more likely to be in this group as they don't want to be traced after the event. The way people walk has a signature to it which will make it easy to follow two people wearing burqas (and not carrying phones) from one place to another and to tell which is which even if they've switched places while they were out of view of the cameras, so there will be no way to hide. With more intelligent software doing the work, it'll be easy enough to build a database on everyone's habits and the amount of antisocial behaviour they're involved in, such as dropping litter and displaying aggression, so homing in on criminals whenever a crime occurs will be easy, even if the cameras miss it.
 

Offline alancalverd

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The probem is that the police aren't interested in criminals, most of whom employ better lawyers than the authorities. It is civil offences like speeding, parking on yellow lines, not paying council tax, and being rude, that are easy to prosecute. Since the magistrates tend to be middle class too, they rarely impose custodial sentences and we just get fined. This suits everyone: it keeps the prison population down, fills the public coffers, and doesn't expose the police to any danger or hardship, but does keep them fully occupied filling in forms.
 

Offline cheryl j

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In addition to policing behavior or protecting people from predators, I wonder what an intelligent machine would glean from all that information that would result in better ways to do things or anticipating events. I'm hard pressed for a really good example and can only think of trivial ones. For example, when I worked briefly in a grocery store, I sometimes wondered about people's purchases. We'd completely sell out of bananas. Or not sell any that day, and they would all ripen too fast. Which made me wonder if it was just coincidence or normal variation in banana buying, or had there been something on Dr. Oz's tv show the day before about bananas that caused a lot of people to make the same decision. Do some ideas or behaviors spread from person to person as if they were contagious, or are a lot of people responding similarly to triggers, cues, or obstacles that are hard to identify?
Can AI use a huge number of observations and comparisons creatively to draw those sorts of useful conclusions without being specifically told what question it is trying to answer, or problem it needs to solve?
« Last Edit: 24/10/2014 21:50:21 by cheryl j »
 

Offline CliffordK

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The concept of pre-crime is popular in Hollywood, and is also seen in the movie "Minority Report", although using different methods than "Person of Interest". 

Unfortunately predicting a crime days in advance is very difficult to do. 

Reading on the web about bomb making doesn't mean a person is planning on blowing up the world, it may just mean a natural curiosity about materials and methods, and staying informed.  Learning about cracking locks may be important in preventing one's stuff from being broken into.  And, lots of people like walks around the neighborhood.

Hats, helmets, and disguises are only a problem if one doesn't have full coverage.  I.E.  If you can follow a person putting on a ski mask outside of a bank, entering, robbing the bank, then discarding the ski mask outside, then one can use it to identify the suspect.  Or track a person traveling from their house.

We all want the government to prevent major terrorist activity.  Yet, at least in the USA, and I believe in other countries, we also hold civil liberties as being important. 

Thinking about killing one's husband or wife, or perhaps robbing a bank is not the same thing as doing it.  Even planning it leaves a lot of room for cold feet.

The greatest benefits in a wide surveillance program is to help track down perpetrators of major crimes, as well as documenting the events in major crimes.

I could imagine tracking purchases of bomb precursors (fertilizer) or drug precursors (Sudafed).  Yet there are many legitimate purchases of both fertilizer and decongestants.  I could imagine my mother who could use a few tons of fertilizer in her fields contracting with a city person to pick it up for her.  Not everything is suspicious.
« Last Edit: 24/10/2014 22:36:36 by CliffordK »
 

Offline David Cooper

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If someone watches videos of people being beheaded, looks up information on how to make bombs, and puts in an order for a large amount of fertilizer, that's when they begin to stand out as interesting. To hide your activities, you should really spend all your time online looking at cats and dogs on facebook and youtube and make it clear that you have absolutely no time left in your life to do anything else. I think there are a lot of would-be terrorists out there who are playing that very game in order to hide their would-do activities which they will never have time to act on.
 

Offline RD

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... To hide your activities, you should really spend all your time online looking at cats and dogs on facebook and youtube and make it clear that you have absolutely no time left in your life to do anything else. I think there are a lot of would-be terrorists out there who are playing that very game in order to hide their would-do activities which they will never have time to act on.

Some of them need to spend some time Googling "cryptography" ...

Quote from: .theregister.co.uk
jihadist relied on Jesus-era encryption ...
Woolwich Crown Court was told that Bangladeshi Islamic activists who were in touch with Karim had rejected the use of common modern systems such as PGP or TrueCrypt in favour of a system which used Excel transposition tables, which they had invented themselves.

But the underlying code system they used predated Excel by two millennia. The single-letter substitution cipher they used was invented by the ancient Greeks and had been used and described by Julius Caesar in 55BC.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/22/ba_jihadist_trial_sentencing/
« Last Edit: 25/10/2014 07:51:54 by RD »
 

Offline alancalverd

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I understand  that the German military and intelligence services are now using typewriters and sealed envelopes - that way, nobody else can read your correspondence because there's only one copy, it's obvious if it has been intercepted, and you don't need to encode it at all. And, to quote Spike Milligan (who foresaw this many years ago) they cunningly write it all in German so nobody else can read it!
 

Offline David Cooper

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Some of them need to spend some time Googling "cryptography" ...

Any system of encryption that you can buy from somewhere could be supplied by the people who want to read your messages. A safer way would be to hide the data in images, but compression interferes with that, so you need to draw attention to yourself by exchanging BMP or WAV files, making little changes to the data that don't show up when you display or play the file. Even then though, the data will still have a signature about it of having been tampered with and someone will quickly crack your system. The only really safe way to do things is to exchange messages via God directly and let him pass them on. Only infidels would work any other way, because believers know that if they pass a message to God through prayer, God will pass it on to the person who needs to receive it.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?
« Reply #10 on: 26/10/2014 00:18:57 »
It is a well-known misconception that if you play certain vinyl records backwards, they contain messages from Satan. Fact is that it isn't the words or music, but the scratches, which are actually Morse code instructions for the impending takeover of the world by Little Green Men.
 

Offline Ethos_

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Re: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?
« Reply #11 on: 26/10/2014 00:19:36 »
I understand  that the German military and intelligence services are now using typewriters and sealed envelopes - that way, nobody else can read your correspondence because there's only one copy, it's obvious if it has been intercepted, and you don't need to encode it at all. And, to quote Spike Milligan (who foresaw this many years ago) they cunningly write it all in German so nobody else can read it!
And they call the information age PROGRESS?
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?
« Reply #12 on: 26/10/2014 00:31:33 »
"They" might, but I don't, and I have no idea who "they" are anyway. I'm always amazed at the stupidity of organisations that allow themselves to be hacked by connecting their innermost secret sanctums to the entire world with a piece of wire, and then hoping that no inquisitive teenager will find a way to read their expense accounts.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?
« Reply #13 on: 26/10/2014 00:48:44 »
Some of them need to spend some time Googling "cryptography" ...

Any system of encryption that you can buy from somewhere could be supplied by the people who want to read your messages. A safer way would be to hide the data in images, but compression interferes with that, so you need to draw attention to yourself by exchanging BMP or WAV files, making little changes to the data that don't show up when you display or play the file. Even then though, the data will still have a signature about it of having been tampered with and someone will quickly crack your system. The only really safe way to do things is to exchange messages via God directly and let him pass them on. Only infidels would work any other way, because believers know that if they pass a message to God through prayer, God will pass it on to the person who needs to receive it.

It would be interesting to know how a fervent religious fundamentalist would react to a suggestion like that. How could someone who has devoted their entire life to belief in God, and believes He is all powerful and omniscient, and who is absolutely certain that he is carrying out His will, possibly doubt the logic and efficacy of that method? And yet something tells me they still would not ditch their cell phones.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?
« Reply #14 on: 26/10/2014 07:23:36 »
Religious fundamentalism is not a matter of expecting a response from the Almighty. It is well known that it is considered normal to talk to your god, and a sign of insanity to say that she replied. The purpose of fundamentalism is to justify evil, whether in the form of restricting the freedom of others to control their reproduction, getting perverted sexual satisfaction from torturing heretics, or simply grabbing assets by tithing or murder. Belief is irrelevant: god is an excuse for wrongdoing, and a declaration of faith overrides any need for logic.
 

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Re: What else could one use a "Person of Interest" machine for?
« Reply #14 on: 26/10/2014 07:23:36 »

 

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