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Person of Interest: what if The Machine was real?

I love watching  TV shows and I already mentioned the long list of the ones I wouldn’t miss. I lately started to watch Person of Interest, a crime drama television series from CBS: an ex-CIA hitman and a scientist team up to prevent crimes before they happen. Honestly, I didn’t like it until the 6th or 7th episode. It looked a lot like Burn Notice but it wasn’t as good. But then the stories got more interesting and Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and John Reese (Jim Caviezel) make an awesome, unexpected duo that works very well together.

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot (from IMDB) – After a scrape with a few hot-heads on the subway, homeless man and former government agent John Reese is offered a job by the somewhat secretive Mr. Finch. After 9/11, Finch developed a computer program that would sift enormous amounts of information, looking for patterns of behavior or activity that would predict another attack. It also provided information about individuals who could be in danger. Finch wants to do something about those people. The first on his list is Diane Hanson, an Assistant District Attorney currently working on a major prosecution. Reese agrees to help out and begins by watching her. It all leads to an unexpected conclusion.

The computer program developed by Finch, also known as The Machine, doesn’t look real and even the idea doesn’t sound credible. But what if it was? Call me naive but I know -almost- everything is possible when it comes to counter-terrorism, but the news from a year ago I read was not about counter-terrorism: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to Reduce Rate of Re-offenders with IBM Predictive Analytics:

The organization selected IBM predictive analytics to improve its existing screening and placement process. With the new analytics system in place, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice will analyze key predictors such as past offense history, home life environment, gang affiliation and peer associations to better understand and predict which youths have a higher likelihood to reoffend […] IBM recently also announced that the Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom uses predictive analytics to assess the likelihood of prisoners reoffending upon their release to help improve public safety. With predictive technology from IBM, the Ministry of Justice is analyzing hidden trends and patterns within the data. IBM SPSS predictive analytics has helped identify whether offenders with specific problems such as drug and alcohol misuse are more likely to reoffend than other prisoners.

Predict which youths have a higher likelihood to reoffend? Analyzing hidden trends and patterns within the data? And soon: In the future, criminals are caught before the crimes they commit. Wait, this is Minority Report! Now I don’t know how I should feel. What if this analytics system was to be used to analyze you, me, everyone? From naive to paranoid… Scary. But something is sure: watch Person of Interest, it’s a very good TV show!

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