Re: Future Technologies of Death

Harvey Newstrom (
Thu, 1 Jan 1998 17:33:24 -0500

At 3:24pm -0500 1/1/98, Nick Bostrom wrote:
>Suppose such a machine existed for deciding with 100% accuracy
>whether somebody had commited a certain crime. It would then be hard
>to argue that the law enforcing agency did not have the right to
>apply this technique to any subject it wanted to (provided that it
>was quick and had no side effects). For to refuse the law enforcing
>agency the unlimited right to use this technique would be equivalent
>to refusing it to maximise its detection rate of criminals, even when
>no externalities were involved. What legitimate reason could anybody
>have for not wanting the law enforcing agency scan his mind with this
>device in order to find out if he had commited a crime?

We almost have this now in the United States.

Ignoring the fact that nothing is 100% perfect, we do have technologies
that detect certain crimes to a very high degree of accuracy. Drug tests
(high quality ones with lots of redundancy, not the cheap ones used for job
interviews) can detect illegal drug use in a body. Fingerprinting can
detect presence at a crime scene. Traffic stops can verify valid driver's
licenses and insurance. Should we force everybody to undergo mandatory
drugtesting, fingerprinting and routine traffic stops to greatly enhance
the ability to detect certain criminals? The current answer in the United
States is (theoretically) no. We have to have reason to believe a person
is guilty before they are investigated in such a manner. We do not
investigate everybody to make sure we catch the criminals.

My point is that this is not a theoretical question for the future. We
have similar technologies now. Are you proposing that we should submit to
these types of routine procedures today?

Harvey Newstrom (