Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chicago Installing Smart Video

Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul
Once the World's Hog Butcher, the city of Chicago, as is its way and in hopes of attracting the Olympics, is proudly reinventing itself into the City that looks over its Big Shoulders 24/7. The city and IBM have kicked off an effort to create the country's most advanced video security network. Like many large cities, Chicago has thousands of security cameras being used by businesses and police. The new system would build on some advanced features like turning cameras toward gun shots and dialing 911 to let cameras analyze images in real time. Potential use cases include programming the system to:
Alert the city's emergency center whenever a camera spots a vehicle, or license plate, matching the description of one being sought by authorities.
Alert emergency officials of suspicious activity like the same vehicle passing a landmark several times, or abandoning a back pack in a public place.
The potential manpower advantages of such a system are obvious. So too are concerns with invasions of privacy and other abuses. These, however, are not the cause of some spirited debates on occasion at some of the Troglodytrix' family's functions. My father-in-law and one of my brothers-in-law, a police officer, see such things as progress. My other two brothers-in-law on that side of the family and I have all viscerally disagreed and for the same reason; it abridges a fundamental right in a manner once anticipated by Star Trek:
[N]ow... I have something HUMAN to talk about! Rights, sir--HUMAN rights! The Bible. The Code of Hammurabi. And of Justinian. The Magna Carta. The Constitution of the United States. The Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies. The Statutes of Alpha III. Gentlemen, these documents all speak of RIGHTS! Rights of the accused to a trial by his peers, to be represented by counsel, the rights of cross-examination, but most importantly, the right to be confronted by the witnesses against him--a right to which my client has been denied!
The most devastating witness against my client is not a human being. It's a machine, an information system. The computer log of the Enterprise.
And I repeat, I speak of rights! A machine has none. A man must. My client has the right to face his accuser, and if you do not grant him that right, you have brought us down to the level of the machine! Indeed, you have elevated that machine above us! I ask that my motion [to reconvene aboard the Enterprise] be granted. And more than that, gentlemen. In the name of humanity, fading in the shadow of the machine, I demand it.
[submitted by e-mail]

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