The ability to predict what someone will do in the future would be a seriously handy superpower. And it’s one that companies like Netflix and Amazon, by crunching the massive trails of data most of us leave behind these days, have come pretty close to acquiring. Surely, though, there is something more ambitious to be done with our dazzling modern technology than trying to guess what kind of microwave someone’s going to want next. Something like preventing murders. It’s a seductive notion, that we could know who will and who won’t commit a crime in the future. And while it may call to mind the science-fiction world of “Minority Report,” making judgments about people’s potential to be dangerous is in fact an essential — and routine — part of how the American justice system works. It is what parole boards do, and what sentencing hearings are for. The consequences of getting such high-stakes decisions wrong can be devastating, as was made tragically plain last Christmas when police say a fellow officer from Woburn was shot and killed by 57-year-old Domenic Cinelli, a career criminal who had been paroled in 2008 while serving three concurrent life sentences for armed robbery. What if we had a better method for reliably identifying threats like Cinelli?
more from Leon Neyfakh at The Boston Globe here.