Trope-a-Day: Precrime Arrest

Precrime Arrest: Well, while this sort of thing is easy enough to do with behavioral analysis software and ubiquitous computing and AI monitoring and all the other appurtenances of Citizen Oversight, obviously you can’t arrest people before the crime, having a great and tremendous respect for free will and all. That would be very bad form indeed. (I mean, if they were certain to commit the crime, that would be fine: under Imperial notions of the legal causality of intent, that’s why you can arraign someone for murder even if they were stopped before proceeding, but if they haven’t committed to their mens rea yet, it’s not a crime even if it was very likely to be, and free-will choices in critical moments are awkward that way.)

But there’s ain’t no rule saying you can’t quietly park a UAV with a stunner, say, in the air over people who are very likely to be about to commit crimes just in case, or quietly take other precautionary measures. If it turns out they don’t – well, no harm, no foul. That’s not an accusation, it’s just probability-based policing.

Trope-a-Day: Faceless Eye

Faceless Eye: Citizen Oversight, the unified office of collecting publicly available data so that what government the Empire has can make sensible decisions (and which, incidentally, pays for itself by selling the statistical information, and collations, and indeed access to the raw feeds – for assorted uses, sousveillance included – it produces on the open market) uses as its logo, of course, the all-seeing eye.

Trope-a-Day: Big Brother Is Watching

Big Brother Is Watching: And his name, in the Empire, is Citizen Oversight.

Subverted, rather, inasmuch as it’s not principally a law enforcement instrumentality.  It, and its extensive surveillance/geolocation/other-sensory grid, drones, etc. – in public spaces only, and privately-owned-but-open-to-the-public don’t count (i.e., those places where, by law and custom, you have no expectation of privacy) – and its data mining/correlation application exist primarily to provide the raw data feed that gets broken down into the statistical information that even a government as minimal as the Empire’s needs to keep things running efficiently.  (Indeed, Citizen Oversight is not part of the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity with the other law enforcement/security instrumentalities; it’s under the Ministry of the Empire, instead, which mostly handles civic infrastructure functions and includes the Protectorate of Balance, Externality, and the Commons.)

They do, however, have non-sophont AI monitors watching the raw feed which will drop a line to the Watch Constabulary if they see a need for police or paramedics, or to the Emergency Management Authority, or to the people responsible for doing maintenance on public property, and so on and so forth.

Subverted doubly inasmuch as this is by no means a private government grid; under the Transparency Act – and because it helps to pay for it – it’s available for use by any member of the public who wants it, from advertisers, journalists, sousveillants and bloggers to the old lady down the street, with the commensurate uses they find for it in play.

It is to be noted that this isn’t supposed to be dystopian, nor would the notion that it might be even occur to anyone there – despite the fact that I, for one, wouldn’t trust any Earth government with even a fraction of this kind of panopticon.  In a culture that is both vastly more freewheeling than ours in most ways (and strongly maintains the notion in etiquette of not interfering in that which is not your proper concern) and which supports a much smaller and less intrusive government… well, the locals like the notion that ambulances will be dispatched to accidents before they’re done happening, that the police will always be called as soon as possible, that problems are reported instantly, that all the advertising they see is relevant to their interests, etc.