Never heard of Palantir? Well, if you're a J.R.R. Tolkien- Lord of the Rings fan, or a fan of the movie adaptations of the fantasy trilogy, you'll know what a "palantir" is: it is for all intents and purposes a crystal-ball that functions as a kind of communications device, allowing its users, presumably, to also see future actions.
It is also the name of a predictive program developed by Peter Thiel, and rapidly being sold to law enforcement agencies around the country, according to this article shared by Mr. R.R.T, and it's well worth reading and pondering carefully:
As the article avers, the program brings to mind Philip K. Dick's "Department of Pre-Crime" which figured in the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report:
Palantir, the CIA-backed startup, is Minority Report come true. It is all-powerful, yet no one knows it even exists. Palantir does not have an office, it has a “SCIF” on a back street in Palo Alto, California. SCIF stands for “sensitive compartmentalised information facility”. Palantir says its building “must be built to be resistant to attempts to access the information within. The network must be ‘airgapped’ from the public internet to prevent information leakage.”
Palantir’s defence systems include advanced biometrics and walls impenetrable to radio waves, phone signal or internet. Its data storage is blockchained: it cannot be accessed by merely sophisticated hacking, it requires digital pass codes held by dozens of independent parties, whose identities are themselves protected by blockchain.
Palantir watches everything you do and predicts what you will do next in order to stop it. As of 2013, its client list included the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Centre for Disease Control, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point and the IRS. Up to 50% of its business is with the public sector. In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, was an early investor.
In Iraq, the Pentagon used Palantir software to track patterns in roadside bomb deployment and worked out garage-door openers were being used as remote detonators by predicting it.
Palantir allowed the marines to upload DNA samples from remote locations and tap into information gathered from years of collecting fingerprints and DNA evidence, the results returned almost immediately.
Of course, all of this calls to mind Dick's "Department of Pre-Crime" and the dangers it presents, and the article itself mentions them:
However, when Cruise’s character begins to question the morality of what he is doing, his superiors detect a threat to the entire pre-crime programme. In order to get rid of him, Cruise is framed for a murder by altering the data of his thought history. In the final showdown with his boss, it is explained to Cruise that sometimes the numbers need to lie for the greater good of society.
Minority Report is set in 2054, but Palantir is putting pre-crime into operation now. The Los Angeles Police Department has used Palantir to predict who will commit a crime by swooping Minority Report-style on suspects. Palantir calls its work with the LAPD “improving situational awareness, and responding to crime in real time”.
Ok, so where's the high octane speculation?
Well, today I don't have one, but I do have a high octane prediction. Christ, according to the Gospels, once warned that all evil ultimately proceeds from the heart and mind of man. This is where it begins; the evil action begins not just in a thought or a temptation, but by the individual will holding it, so to speak, to the mind's attention, and contemplating it. From God's point of view, in other words, while the wilful attention to an evil action may not result in the action itself, nonetheless it is the same in God's eyes as if it had. But from the practical development of moral theology, it was long recognized that, from the human point of view, the action itself was far worse than the mere act of wilful (and pleasurable) attention to it. (Apologies for compacting so much into so little space!) With this in mind, here is the high octane prediction: the use of such programs will be justified by those wanting to impose even more surveillance on society precisely by such "theological" and "moral" appeals; after all, if Christ warned about the heart and mind of the individual as the beginning of the process of an evil action, then the best way to nip it in the bud is to convict on the basis of that beginning, regardless of the end result. It will be "sold", as it were, as a very "Christian" or "pious" or "religious" thing to do. Technology will thus be sold as a "solution" to the old problem of theodicy; technology, not grace, will perfect mankind. Everyone must conform in their thinking... it will be the new manifestation of the "social gospel", a tempting apple in the eye of its advocates.
And that of course, completely misses the other part of the problem, but I'll leave that for the reader to think about...
See you on the flip side...