+

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.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

Keep ReadingShow less

Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

Keep ReadingShow less