Harvard Medical School released the results of a new study that will raise a controversial discussion about big data used to identify future criminals. Is Minority Report already a reality?
Tom Cruise hunts down criminals in the 2002 movie Minority Report before they commit a crime. In the movie based on legendary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, the police uses a psychic technology that foresees who will commit a crime. The Harvard Medical School announced the results of a study, suggesting that scientists can do that today using Big Data and machine learning.
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The US Department of Defense funded research aimed to identify soldiers at high risk for perpetrating severe violent crimes. The project used to build a machine learning model based on administrative data available for all 975,057 Regular U.S. Army soldiers on active duty from 2004 to 2009.
The system works surprisingly well. The 5% of soldiers classified by the final model as having the highest predicted risk accounted for 36.2% of all major physical violent crimes committed by men and 33.1% by women over the 6 years of study.
When the machine learning model was fed with more recent data from 2011 to 2013, the 5% of soldiers with highest predicted risk sky rocket to 50.5% of all major physical violent crimes. The results of the study have been published in the Journal Psychological Medicine.
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"These numbers are striking," said Ronald Kessler, the McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy at HMS and principal investigator on the project. "They show us that predictive analytic models can pinpoint the soldiers at highest violence risk for preventive interventions. Targeting such interventions might be the best way to bring down the violent crime rate in the Army."