Our business districts are no longer safe. The past few weeks have seen story upon story of citizens bearing the brunt of a city gone lawless and rogue, mugged and robbed in broad daylight without much action from the police force, who are truly ill equipped to deal. Many pedestrians keep a clear berth, unwilling to risk their lives in situations where the attackers may number in the tens with probable accomplices lurking in the crowds ready to intervene should things go south. We often get to hear of these stories on social media following the posting of security footage. Wild fires of condemnation ensue as the videos go viral and as expected the local government will make a statement and launch a salvo to appease the city’s residents and ‘leave no stone unturned’.
I find that government keeps missing on opportunities to really connect with it citizens in a positive way and cement the place and purpose of technology. Even as we wait for policy and legislation such as the Data Protection Bill to find footing, government must actively apply themselves toward creating goodwill among the citizens by showcasing, and very visibly at that, the benefits of some of the programs it is rolling out.
Case in point; these young thugs are not savvy and employ the use of brute force and sheer numbers to great effect. In most of the incidences that you will play witness to, the perpetrators disappear into some backstreet or shockingly simply cross the road and mingle with the crowds. Here’s the catch, often times the only disguise is a cap or hoodie.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence have come a long way with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Alibaba among others making both the compute power and algorithms readily available for the creation of smart solutions that could be applied to the exacerbated menace we are facing.
- Google Cloud’s AI provides modern machine learning services, with pre-trained models and a service to generate your own tailored models. Our neural net-based ML service has better training performance and increased accuracy compared to other large scale deep learning systems – https://cloud.google.com/products/machine-learning/
- Amazon, have been investing deeply in artificial intelligence for over 20 years. Machine learning (ML) algorithms drive many of their internal systems. It’s also core to the capabilities their customers experience – from the path optimization in our fulfillment centers, and Amazon.com’s recommendations engine, to Echo powered by Alexa, their drone initiative Prime Air, and the new retail experience Amazon Go. Their mission is to share learnings and ML capabilities as fully managed services, and put them into the hands of every developer and data scientist – https://aws.amazon.com/machine-learning/
- Microsoft Cognitive Services (formerly Project Oxford) are a set of APIs, SDKs and services available to developers to make their applications more intelligent, engaging and discoverable – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-services/
Last year, China rolled out ‘Skynet’ that has over 20 million smart cameras as part of its platform make up. The demonstration video with accurate facial recognition and additional metadata is sure to send initial chills down your spine when you extrapolate what it can be used for, but in context you really end up asking yourself, why not. I am not in anyway advocating for the exact model, but to ‘tropicalize’ it and make it work for us. There can and has to be a middle ground.
No system of mass surveillance has existed in any society that we know of to this point that has not been abused – Edward Snowden
In my younger days, knowing that big brother is watching, would mean that I feel safe to play and move around the neighborhood. I am a proponent of smart privacy that looks at unlocking value from personal identifying data. It is about time we had this conversation at national level and agree on a way forward. It is bound to be a most interesting and heated debate.