List of Abbreviations
Artificial general intelligence
Digital frontier technologies
Distributed Ledger Technology
Denial of Service
Distributed Denial of Service
Federal Bureau of Investigations
Information and communication technology
Internet of things
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Ransom Denial of Sendee
Radio Frequency Identification
Sustainable Development Goals
Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
List of Abbreviations xi
Science and technology studies
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Visual Analytics for Sense-Making in Criminal Intelligence Analysis
Wireless LAN network
A journey into the Unknown
Imagine the following scenario: police officers arrive at a crime scene. There is a lifeless body on a pavement, and a 3D printed gun next to it. An officer approaches the gun and points an object to it. The two things connect. The object handled by an officer shows information about the gun: the date and place of printing, who printed it and from what materials, who bought it, and maybe even who handled/fired it. Alternatively, imagine this: a prospective terrorist goes to a hardware store to buy items they need to make a bomb. All the components they intend to buy have sensors that communicate with other objects, leaving a unique data trail. The smart things communicate this information to other smart things deployed by law enforcement who can now predict the likely outcome of this purchase. In the final scenario, think about this: prisons may soon become obsolete, thanks to the artificial intelligence (Al) and the Internet of things1 (loT) technology. A would-be terrorist’s house from the previous scenario could serve as a prison cell: the front door would deny entry or exit if so ordered by the court of law. In the future, many objects, things and machines in our house, workplace, and public spaces—from doors, chairs, and beds to vehicles and planes—are likely to be connected through the loT network and powered by Al. They will communicate with other things in the grid, record and monitor our behaviour, location, health, and mental state. They will move us from place to place and deliver our groceries. Critically, objects will also act on our behalf, potentially bypassing us in the process. They are likely to become smarter and increasingly independent, learning from and adapting to the environment and embedded algorithms.
While some of the above scenarios might not materialise, certain aspects of this futuristic hi-tech backdrop already exist. We are ever more fascinated with the advances of science and technology and their role in creating new possibilities for modem societies, as well as improving our well-being and experiences. Commentators argue that technology as ‘the use of scientific knowledge to set procedures for performance in a reproducible manner’ (Castells, 2004: 8) has the potential to ‘completely modify the future course of the humanity’ (Ghimire, 2018: 6). Indeed, as Howard (2015) suggests, behind every empire is a new technology. Navigating society in the desired direction requires the use, control, and oversight of the pace and trajectory of current and potential innovations. Imagining what might eventuate is essential even though it can be erroneous. Future, after all, is uncertain. Nevertheless, to prepare and make the right decisions, we need to look forward. The focus of our attention needs to be on all aspects of technology: objects (actual or virtual), activities, knowledge, modes of organisation and sociotechnical systems (Matthewman, 2011: 12), and in particular technological artefacts—the physical or digital products of scientific activities and knowledge.
The evolution of humankind has been a long and adventurous affair. A Swedish-American physicist and cosmologist, Max Tegmark (2017), suggests that life on Earth had three key stages, depending on life forms’ ability to design itself. In Life 1.0 (a simple biological life), living creatures could survive and replicate. However, they could not evolve or design their biological hardware and software other than via a lengthy and painful process of evolution. Humans signify Life 2.0 (a cultural life), where software could be successfully designed (i.e. we can learn a foreign language or adapt to our surroundings by not eating peanuts if we are allergic). Nevertheless, we cannot alter our biological hardware (i.e. ‘upgrade’ our brains). As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, humankind is on the brink of Life 3.0 (a technological life), where intelligent life forms could design both its software and hardware. While we are yet (if ever) to see the birth of Artificial General Intelligence (AG I -‘strong’ Al) that can understand, learn, and perform any intelligent task a human being can with no human input, smart devices powered by ‘weak’ Al are everywhere. Siri, Amazon Alexa, facial recognition software, Netflix viewing suggestions, and email spam filters are just some examples of our overwhelmingly technological reality.
Be that as it may, we often reminisce on a failed hope that by now, innovations celebrated in decades of science fiction would become a reality: chatter regarding flying pods from TheJetsons are a frequent feature in our household. The driver behind this narrative is, aside from sci-fi movies and novels, the view predominant since the Enlightenment: that scientific and technological developments are the defining factor of progress. Techno-credulity—blind faith in technological solutions, as Lucia Zedner (2009) points out—is a hallmark of late modernity. We use our technological artefacts, such as smartphones, computers, and tablets, to read about medical breakthroughs, wearable and security technologies, Al and robotics, and many other endeavours in a range of disciplines, from medicine to physics, and from aeronautics to microbiology. As Kleber Ghimire (2018: 6) suggests, ‘[g]lancing at the current literature on future studies, one gets the impression that the future direction of humanity is all about technology'’. When the outbreak of COVID-19 virus hit the world in 2020, many hailed technological innovations such as smartphone apps as critical tools needed to help stem the tide of the pandemic, monitor the spread of the disease, and facilitate treatment (HIMSS Media, 2020). Technology *play[s] a crucial role in our collective attempt to make sense of the future’ (Verschraegen and Vandermoere, 2017: 2), especially given the fact that the future is by default uncertain. As the future looks increasingly risky, even dangerous, we focus on technology and science, expecting miracles. Contagious diseases, the threat of global warming, expansion and potential use of weapons of mass destruction, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks are a constant in the media and public discourse, as we are seemingly only one step away from such disasters. The future seems precarious, as technology and science innovations emerge as indispensable tools that can tame the beast.
On the other hand, technology could be hazardous, if not fatal, for individuals, communities, or the humankind. As Matthewman (2011: 25) suggests, when we invent technology, we also invent the possibility of unwanted outcomes that the use of such technology. A growing network of modem Luddites call for restraint and, often, a dramatic rejection of new technologies.2 In the future Internet of algorithms, Al, interconnected smart devices and autonomous machines (hereafter ‘digital frontier technologies’ - DFTs), unwanted outcomes of new technologies could be severe and global (see Bostrom and Cirkovic, 2011). The world’s sharpest minds such as Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, Yuval
Noah Harari, and Bill Joy warned about the potential impact of out-of-control technological developments to our future. The conclusion of many scholars in a range of disciplines is that, even seemingly benign technologies could be designed and developed to dominate (Matthewman, 2011: 6). As Harari (2018: 17) would have it, *[i]t is undoubtable ... that the technological revolutions will gather momentum in the next few decades, and will confront humankind with the hardest trials we have ever encountered’. Every new technology', thus, ‘invites its own sets of hopes and fears, raises as many' questions as it answers, and resides in its own (false) binary between utopia and dystopia’ (Papacharissi, 2019: Section 1; Introduction). I revisit this vital point throughout the book.
This chapter outlines some of the key themes explored in Crime and Punishment in the Future Internet, such as:
- • The classification and overview of the DFTs and the rationale for their inclusion in the book;
- • The significance of these technologies for crime prevention, offending, criminal justice responses, and penal policies.
This chapter also maps an overarching approach, as well as the aim and the structure of this volume.