One of the continuing themes of the Left in every industrial nation has been the need to establish mass transit. The war on the automobile is basic to this outlook. Mass transit is more efficient, we are told. Mass transit reduces greenhouse gases. Mass transit fosters community.
Mass transit allows more government control. That is the bottom line.
The automobile provides mobility on the owner’s terms. He pays for this mobility. He comes and goes as he pleases. Bureaucrats hate this. They prefer to monitor everything. George Orwell’s vision in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was accurate. Big Brother wants to watch you.
In the San Francisco mass transit system, the government is installing security cameras that are tied to computers. The program in the computer will assess who is a pre-terrorist and who isn’t.
It’s Minority Report, and it’s coming to a mass transit system near you.
These will be tested in San Francisco, but they are being considered by the New York Port Authority.
The private firm that sells the systems already sells to government agencies, military bases, and private industry.
The cameras go in. Then the data are collected. The program establishes what is normal behavior. Then the program starts making judgments about abnormal behavior. This triggers an alert.
Initially, there will be 22 cameras at each train station. Then the system will “learn.”
The post-9/11 emphasis on “homeland security” and anti-terrorism efforts has resulted in a gold rush of surveillance contracts from mass transit agencies and public institutions nationwide. While large mass transit agencies such as New York’s MTA and Chicago’s CTA have been cagey about their counter-terrorism efforts, trade show presentations and chatter in industry publications have given a basic idea of what is happening. Apart from machine learning-based video surveillance, subway security has also taken on wackier (and scarier) aspects: The Homeland Security Department has publicly announced their plans to release bacteria into Boston T tunnels this summer in order to test new biological weapon detectors deployed throughout the subway system.
This technology is spreading around the world.
There will be competitors.
We are told that there will be less and less human assessment of the data over the coming years. The programs will make the assessments.
We know that humans make mistakes. But computer programs are reliable. We all know this from our experience with computer programs.
Maybe it’s time to read Robert Sheckley’s 1953 science fiction story, “Watchbird.” It’s here.