This new tech can stop crimes before they happen, and that's terrifying.

Imagine you're all alone in a low-lit parking lot when a big, white robot rolls up to you and offers its protection.

Congratulations: You just met the Knightscope K5, the latest in pre-crime technology!



Weirder things have happened, right? I mean, not many weirder things, but definitely some weirder things. GIF via Knightscope/YouTube.

It might look like the lovechild of R2-D2 and a Dalek, but the K5 is actually the world's first "autonomous data machine." (At least according to the press materials.)

What this actually means is that it roves around parking lots in Silicon Valley using facial recognition software to identify potential criminals, broadcasting massive amounts of information back to the company's private data center, and generally policing through (admittedly adorable) intimidation.

And what's more, this shiny robot cop can be rented out for as low as $6.25 an hour.


All in a day's work. GIF from "Robocop."

Are you feeling like you're living in the future yet? 'Cause the K5 ain't the only tech that allegedly stops crime before it happens.

Back in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security created the Fast Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST. Originally known as Project Hostile Intent (can't imagine why they changed it?), this data-crunching program uses physiological and behavioral patterns to identify individuals with potential to commit violent crimes.

And in September 2015, Hitachi released its fancy new Predictive Crime Analytics, which uses thousands of different factors from weather patterns to word usage in social media posts to identify when and where the next crime could happen.

"We're trying to provide tools for public safety so that [law enforcement is] armed with more information on who's more likely to commit a crime," explained Darrin Lipscomb, one of the creators of this crime-monitoring technology, in a Fast Company article.

He also said, "A human just can't handle when you get to the tens or hundreds of variables that could impact crime."

Sounds an awful lot like a certain Spielberg action movie starring a pre-couch-jumping Tom Cruise.


Speaking of curious behavioral patterns... GIF from "Minority Report."

So what are we waiting for? Let's use all this awesome new technology to put a stop to crime before it starts!

Except ... it's not "crime" if it hasn't happened, is it? You can't arrest someone for trying every car door in the parking lot, even if you do feel pretty confident that they're looking for an open one so they can search inside for things to steal.

And even then: How can you tell the difference between a thief, a homeless person looking for a place to sleep, or someone who just got confused about which car was theirs?

GIF from "Robocop."

Besides: What if the algorithms used in this pre-crime technology are just as biased as human behavior?

Numbers don't lie. But numbers also exist within a context, which means the bigger picture might not be as black and white as you'd think.

Consider the stop-and-frisk policies that currently exist in cities like New York or the TSA screening process at the airport. Those in favor might argue that if black and Muslim Americans are more likely to commit violent crimes, then it makes sense to treat them with extra caution. Those opposed would call that racial profiling.

As for the supposedly objective predictive robot cops? Based on the data available to them, they'd probably rule in favor of racial profiling.

Author/blogger Cory Doctorow explains this problem pretty succinctly:

"The data used to train the algorithm comes from the outcomes of the biased police activity. If the police are stop-and-frisking brown people, then all the weapons and drugs they find will come from brown people. Feed that to an algorithm and ask it where the police should concentrate their energies, and it will dispatch those cops to the same neighborhoods where they've always focused their energy, but this time with a computer-generated racist facewash that lets them argue that they're free from bias."


See how quickly this spirals downward? GIF from "Robocop."

Pre-crime measures might make us feel safer. But they could lead to some even scarier scenarios.

By trying to stop crimes before they happen, we actually end up causing more crime. Just look at all the wonderful work that law enforcement agencies have already done by inadvertently creating terrorists and freely distributing child pornography.

The threat of surveillance from robots and data analysts might stop a handful of crimes, but it also opens up a bigger can of worms about what, exactly, a crime entails.

Because if you think you have "nothing to hide," well, tell that to the disproportionate number of black people imprisoned for marijuana or any of the men who've been arrested in the last few years for consensual sex with another man. (And remember that not too long ago, interracial sex was illegal, too.)


Do you really want these guys showing up at your house when you're trying to get it on? GIF from "Doctor Who."

Hell, if you've ever faked a sick day or purchased a lobster of a certain size, you've committed a felony.

The truth is, we've all committed crimes. And we've probably done it more often than we realized.

Don't get me wrong. It's certainly exciting to see people use these innovative new technologies to make the world safer. But there are others ways to stop crime before it starts without infringing on our civil rights.

For starters, we can fix the broken laws still on the books and create communities that care instead of cultivating fear. There'd be a lot less crime if we just looked after each other.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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