Over the weekend, I went to see a movie.
It's been about a year since I set foot in a movie theater.
The film I saw was the re-creation of Robocop.
There were few surprises in the film. The motorcycle riding made my heart pound. So did the fights.
However, it felt a little like the fights were an escalating series of tactical situations that the Detective had to survive. I cared about the fights because I empathized for the character; the fights themselves were not too surprising.
The story didn't contain many surprises. A generic evil company; and a doctor who works for the evil company but is unsettled by the corporate decisions. A detective trying to crack a corruption case. His target decides to plant a bomb, the bomb results in horrible burns and debilitating injuries.
The conclusion makes sense in the setting of the film. And the central character, Detective Murphy, is learning how to adapt to his robotically-augmented body throughout the film. That adaptation has to overcome a deeply-implanted barrier for him to succeed during the final showdown.
There is one part of the film that is frighteningly close to present-day technology. Detective Murphy gets a download of the entire Police Department database. He uses this download, plus access to surveillance feeds, to turn scattered data into an amazing criminal-hunting tool. Old murderers, crimes-in-progress, and the nemesis who tried to murder him all become easy to track down.
This prospect is scary. And it is not unthinkable that Police departments will have that ability in 20 years. (Moderated by the fact that most surveillance networks are private, and Police will need their own public surveillance network over most of their city...or get access to neighboring city surveillance nets...to do this kind of thing.)
I don't work in image processing, databasing, or on facial recognition. But I've chatted with people who do.
This film shows a capability that is not current for most Police Departments. But the combination of facial-recognition and video/image analysis to map social networks is possible.
It's mostly proof-of-concept right now, from what I can make out. There may be several large retail businesses who have rolled out facial-recognition to help identify customers (or thieves). But in a world where the digital marketplace runs on surveillance, this kind of database will likely become standard fare in major Police Departments.
And surveillance cameras are already being used to recognize and track the movements of cars by automatically recording license plates.
That series of thoughts are scary.
More scary than the villain of the Robocop film.