Re: Justice and Punishment

den Otter (
Mon, 30 Mar 1998 15:51:21 +0200

> From: John K Clark <>

> >>I can't prove I wasn't at the scene of most murders, neither can you.
> >den Otter" <>
> >You can if you document your life (mini audio/video) and/or others,
> >like the government are doing it for you.
> I concede that if you let me provide the video tape I can give you iron clad
> proof that I was not at the crime scene, even if I was.

It's not that easy to fool the system. First of all, you aren't the only one who's
recording. Actually, there's a great chance that due to the fact that there are
street surveillance cams, satellite cams, other people with bodycams etc,
you will be recorded (possibly by multiple, independent sources you know
nothing about) at a time and place that somehow contradicts your story, or
otherwise makes the investigators doubt your innocence (of course, it can
work in your advantage too, if you're really innocent). For example, if you
kill someone with a bomb you have to buy the ingredients first. Forensics
can determine with great precision what was in the bomb and where it
could have come from. Even if you remove all other (obvious, like reciepts)
evidence that you were in store x last week that sells steel pipes as used in
the murder, the storecam and streetcams tell a different story. Piece by
piece your "perfect" cover story comes apart, until there's nothing left.

Furthermore, personal cam systems would have to meet certain standards
in order to be accepted as strong evidence. They would be made so that they
transmit their location and images 24h a day to a central database, where they
are dated and stored in multiple redundancy. They'd also have an internal
memory that could be downloaded to the central databases via the net every
day or so (incidentally, this system of leading a documented yet private life
could help with reconstruction of one's personality/memory after an accident.
It's a primitive forerunner of making copies of an upload. Cams must also be
tamper-proof, with alarms going off when someone tries to meddle with its
innards etc. Of course, *nothing* is 100% fool proof, but (once again) if it
helps to _improve_ the situation by helping to catch all but the most cunning
criminals it has been worth the effort, IMHO. Since most criminals are in
fact quite dumb, you might reduce crime with as much as 90+% with
omnipresent surveillance and a rational, no-nonsense justice systems that
will keep the bad guys off the streets for good.

> >Really tough cases could be left to (teams of) human judges ('till
> >the advent of AI),
> An AI may have other concerns, do you care if snails live together in justice?

That depends on how you program it. Only a fool would make a machine with
superior intellect *and* a free will. I agree that when "independant" AI, or AI-
human hybrids (uploads) come to the scene they won't think too much of
humans (but enough to exterminate them 'cause, after all, it was humans that
made them, which means that basically any human can become a Power and
threaten their position).

Anyway, a justice system that is as automated as is technologically possible
would be a great improvement over any system we have today. The purpose
of "electronic justice" is:
--reducing the judge to what he should always have been: an executive of the law.
A judge must determine guilty/not guitly/not enough conclusive evidence and
then (if the verdict is "guilty" look up the punishment that the law prescribes in
this particular case. No more, no less.
--making sure that the *same judge*, or group of judges handles every case.
Right now, it is openly known and more or less accepted that judges have
all different philosophies etc, and that you are lucky when you get judge X
because he gives mild punishments, or have bad luck 'cause you get judge
Y and he's known as a hardass. The difference could be 20 years or more
in some cases (for the same crime). Also, judges tend to be extremely harsh
on people who "take justice into their own hands". This is not the way it
should be; the characteristics of a _fair_ justice system are equal treatment
of all equal cases (law refined with binding precedent), that the punishment
fits the crime (eye for an eye) and that only truly harmful actions are punished.

Today's justice systems, be it the anglo-american or continental or whatever
don't meet the criteria of fair justice. I have made some suggestions to
improve this. If you don't agree, I'd love to hear your alternative design
(or do you think that all is well as it is?)

> >Judges would be required to take "common sense" tests as part of
> >their training.
> I think that's a fine idea, provided of course I decide what is common sense
> and give the test.

I would gladly set up such a test, since I'm obviously well-endowed when it
comes to "common sense" ;-). Actually, it might not be as hard as you think
to reach a consensus on common sense and justice, since even we only
disagree on one crime (slander). In fact, I think few could/would object to
the notion that only truly harmful acts (murder, rape, theft, damage to persons
or property etc.) should be punished. That's common sense. Other expressions
of common sense are for example the transhumanist principles. A test could
partially be based on that.

To train judges (and later computers -- how about a justice Deep Blue) you
would have case simulations of real and fictional crimes. The judicial candidates
with the best results (after a minimal number of training hours) would qualify
for judge (of course continous background checks, mental stability,
a documented life etc. are also necessary requirements). In effect, the judges
would function as judicial AI's, with the whole of the systems judicial data at
their fingertips. Just hit the button to get all the info on any suspect you want.
It goes without saying that the judges would be among the heaviest monitored
people in the empire.

> >the crimes that threaten society most like street violence will be
> >hit the hardest by increased surveillance.
> Street violence doesn't threaten society, and the individuals it does
> threatens are rare.

E-x-c-u-s-e me!? There is a *huge* chance that any given person will become
the victim of some form of street violence in their lifitime. For example, every
one in four women in the US will be raped if my memory serves me well.
You will almost certainly be robbed, beaten or worse at some point. That's
why people rather not go out at night nowadays, especially old people and
women etc. If there's anything that bothers people *directly* it's streetcrime.
Omnipresent surveillance and a swift and sure justice system would wipe
the thugs from the streets, and prevent burglaries, shoplifting and the likes
too. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

> In the USA violent crime has declined for 6 years in a
> row, that's why your idea of turning the entire world into one big
> concentration camp in order to solve a trivial problem makes no sense.

I think "concentration camp" is a little off the mark in this context. Remember:
as long as you stick to (the now quite comprehensive and fair) law you
won't even notice that you're being monitored. You just notice that since
the new laws have come into effect your house hasn't been broken into,
your wallet wasn't stolen when you left it on the restaurant table, the youths
that used to threaten passers-by in the mall are now quite well-behaved etc.
It's not about solving "trivial problems", but about decimating all crime and
making society a safer place to live in, so that you can focus on the things
that count.

> Yes I could be killed by some mugger on the street, but history has shown I'm
> far more likely to die because a government says I've slandered it, or
> because it forces me to fight in some idiotic war, or because it thinks it's
> smarter than the market, impoverishes my society and causes me to starve.

Why do you assume that the completely rational modifications to
the justice system would _automatically_ lead to some kind of Stalinist
revival? Dictators have no interest in justice. The proposed changes are
largely independant of other politics; any democracy could adopt the
surveillance system (hell, they're doing it right now) and the kind of
semi-automated, consequent and proportional law as described earlier.

> >Miss Marple-esque murder mysteries aren't exactly the rule, you know.
> True, because most real murder mysteries are never solved.

Largely because we don't have the Ubiquitous Surveillance System
(or "Ubiquity" for short) yet. Apart from that, most crimes are anything
but cunning and mysterious. If the new system can reduce crime to
a couple of odd murders by either extremely stupid (they don't last long)
or extremely wily folks a year we all should be quite pleased. Furthermore:
because of the low crime rates the police can throw their full weight at
the few remaining crimes which makes it harder still to get away with it.
Survival of the fittest, you know. The remaining criminals are probably
*less* dangerous, because extreme caution and self-discipline are needed
to fool all parts of the system. The truly dangerous criminals that kill on
impulse without too much considering the consequences will be the first
to say "hello" to the executioner. Good riddens.

> >Cases like O.J. Simpson, where an obvious murderer can never be
> >brought to justice because the judicial system fucked up the first
> >time around must be prevented however. This means that even if
> >someone has initially been found innocent, he *can* be tried for the
> >same crime at a later date if new evidence comes up.
> This is a good example, the judicial system did fuck up but unfortunately
> there's nothing unusual there. A mountain of evidence was presented at the
> trial, more than enough to convict I think, evidently you agree, but others
> disagree including the jury and significant new evidence has not turned up.
> So what do we do, keep retrying a person till we get a verdict we like?
> If I'm convicted and I don't like it can I keep getting new trials until
> I'm found innocent?

First of all: keep the press out of the courtroom, in fact out of justice
This is in everyone's interest, and prevents a "trial by (manipulated) public
Furthermore: elliminate juries, they are neither fit nor motivated to make a sound
judgement. Just as you don't select just any passenger to fly a plane, you don't
select just any bunch of people to decide over matters of (sometimes) life and death

in court. That should be done by detached, experienced professionals, i.e. computers
and a professional team of judges. All fully monitored and with reliable track
and many hours of training with the case simulation computer.

With all of this (AND the Ubiquity), the chances are slim that the system makes a
serious error the first time around. Just for that freak case where the verdict is
screwed up time and again you could set a limit of, say, three trials (much shorter
than today's trials and considerably less intrusive to the suspect -- he can remain
under monitored house arrest while his case is reviewed). After three subsequent
judicial fuckups in the same case you walk unconditionally. In my system, O.J.
would no longer be with us -- guaranteed.

> >the torture that is applied to especially cruel/multiple murderers,
> >which they duly deserve.
> Duly deserve? Again we find a major disagreement on the nature of Justice.
> My definition, Justice is the course of action that reduces the amount of
> suffering in the world the most.
> Your definition, Justice is the course of action that rewards victims by
> entertaining them with the suffering of people they don't like.

My definition is actually:

"Justice is punishing harmful acts in proportion to the crime and in a consequent

It's not about entertaining anyone, although I wouldn't object to it if the
(relatives of)
the victims would feel better if they watched the criminal suffer. Justice is about
having a solid, consequent measurement when punishing harmful acts. "Eye for
an eye" is _the most logical_ and _consequent_ measurement there is. It has an
almost mathematical logic and beauty to it. Action and reaction are in perfect
balance. Other measurements just appear arbitrary, based on no specific logic
or wisdom.

And there's a purely practical side to an eye for an eye, apart from being the
most consequent measurement, namely that you get no murders "for free" like
today. It doesn't really matter how many people you kill or how you kill them
if there's only one standard ("humane") form of capital punishment or life
imprisonment. In the new system, it does matter. The more you kill & torture,
the longer and more severely you will suffer. That may a certain preventive

> >>Me:
> >>Do you really find it hard to understand why anybody and everybody
> >>would be more than nervous when police bring them in?
> >That depends on the public's trust in the system, the PR of the
> >police etc.
> Good PR needs a jingle, how about "A day without torture is like a day
> without sunshine". Then we could have a sitcom about the wacky adventures of
> Tommy the Torturer, like the time his boss told him to draw and quarter a
> prisoner but by mistake he burned him at the stake instead. A laugh riot!
> Fun for the whole family! Then we need a kid show about your friendly
> neighborhood torturer, perhaps we could interest the Disney people, or the
> Muppets.

Quite funny actually :-) , but I'm affraid the image of the police would mostly
be determined by their track record (open to the public) and word of mouth.
A good system needs no slick advertizing.

> >people won't be too scared when politely asked to come to down to
> >the station. [...] At the stage that someone is requested to
> >appear at a hearing it must already be 99% (so to speak) sure that
> >he's guilty.
> Let's see, when the police politely ask me to come down to the station I know
> that there is a 99% chance that they think I'm guilty and duly deserve to be
> slowly tortured to death but there is no reason I should be nervous.
> Could you run that past me again?

Certainly, this means that very few people would be unduly picked up by the
police in the first place, because a very solid case is required to allow this.
Fear is largely determined by the image the police and justice system has.
Maybe people fear cops where you live, but certainly not where I come from
or would like to live. Believe it or not, firm justice and a "friendly" police force
*do* mix. In fact, the police officers would be a lot *less* frustrated than they
are now, and because less would be needed the mental requirements could
be higher and training better. In a system with extensive surveillance you
can be close to certain that there is some recording that proves your innocence,
if you indeed didn't commit the crime. Almost anything can be retraced, and
if there is no hard evidence of your guilt you won't be convicted. Unlike in
Saddam country or the US you wouldn't have to fear for your life & limb when
arrested for a crime you didn't commit.

> >The damage has been done by then, and is often irreversible. You
> >might take the slanderer down with you, but that won't undo the
> >damage to your reputation. It's better to prevent it alltogether, by
> >law.
> If me taking the slanderer down with my words does not deter him why will the
> law do better?

Because the law has means to investigate and expose someone. Instead of going
at it alone, you have a large "gang" of top crime specialists and their enforcers
to help you. This is especially useful if you've been singled out by someone
who's (a lot) more powerful than yourself, like a cult or a company etc. That's
what justice is all about: there are specialists for judicial matters so that
the people can focus on other things. That's society's advantage over anarchy.

> Fortunately the Internet and Cryptography are making this debate moot,
> slander laws are becoming impossible to enforce. If I want to slander you I
> can do so anonymously and you can slander me back the same way. I don't think
> that will bring an end to civilization and because I'm not thin skinned I
> don't think it will bring the end to me either. You'll probably survive to.

That's true, the net has comlicated matters considerably. Still, many electronic
nastyness can be traced and there are plenty of other slander forms (oral, written)
that are easier to target. By the way, with slander I don't mean the low key
angry neigbor stuff, or flame wars over the net, but maliciously trying to destroy
someone's reputation for personal gain. This kind of slander can lead to
real damage like the loss of your job or worse, and not just a bruised ego.
It falls in approximately the same category as staking and should be dealt
with accordingly.