Chris Neal

“Wisdom of the Crowd” – Would Crowdsourced Crime Solving Actually Work?

Update: CBS has cancelled the series mid-season due to weak ratings and allegations of sexual harassment involving lead actor Jeremy Piven. 


I regrettably spent the better part of a day binging CBS’s new drama series, Wisdom of the Crowd. I found it hard to watch at times, as I found the characters generally one-dimensional, and the plot, lackluster—especially in terms of technical accuracy. As for audio, it’s chock full of the stereotypical booms and rapid crescendos one hears in shows like this, which drives me up the wall. Then again, this is CBS we’re talking about.

One thing writers did well, though, was explore a concept I had never thought about—one which I found extraordinarily intriguing.

The show revolves around tech visionary Jeffrey Tanner (played by Jeremy Piven) who designs a platform called “Sophe,” created to find his daughter Mia’s murderer. Sophe, in Jeffrey Tanner’s words, is “realtime crowdsourced crime solving.” It utilizes the “wisdom of the crowd” (AKA social media) to solve crimes, and offers a hub where people can submit and dissect evidence to help solve criminal cases. The platform also utilizes A.I. and machine learning, which allows it to improve its performance and accuracy while sifting through a myriad of responses.

I kept asking myself, is it a good idea to give everyone—potentially hundreds of millions of people—a public platform to solve crimes? A place to post potentially sensitive or damaging information? How would people respond? How would one maintain control of a situation that arises from users posting new “evidence?” What if said evidence is false? Basically, what are the implications of such a platform?

SPOILERS

In episode one, the driver of a ride-sharing vehicle is targeted after Sophe users manage to piece together information from a blurry video posted to the site. Shortly after putting old information against the new footage, users identify the driver and even uploaded his personal information (driver’s license), which sparks a massive witch-hunt. A violent mob eventually corners the driver, but of course, some police officers located (conveniently) nearby escort him to safety. It is later revealed that the man was sent to the hospital for the injuries he sustained.

Later in the episode, a man identified as a convicted rapist and potential suspect is approached by police, but flees on foot. His picture is then uploaded to Sophe with the caption: “Have you seen this man? Dangerous—Do not Approach.” A Sophe user eventually walks past the man, and shares his location with all other Sophe users, who—despite being told otherwise—quickly converge on a train station, and eventually, onto the train the man boards.

In my opinion, the crowd looked like a hoard of zombies, holding their phones out to stream video of the eventual arrest. It was a bit unsettling, to say the least.

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These examples of a “mob mentality” are frightening—but crowdsourced crime solving is already happening.

For example, earlier this year, police in the U.K. asked the public to upload pictures or video they had taken on the subway before the Parsons Green bombing.

After the Boston Bombing, Reddit users tried to determine who the bombers were, but went horribly awry. Users misidentified a potential suspect, and caused  serious problems for his friends and family. Afterwards, Reddit enacted a new policy on witch-hunts.

An app called “Citizen” became available on the App Store earlier this year, which sends 911 alerts to your device whenever an incident/emergency occurs near you. It also enabled up to 25 people to simultaneously broadcast video of an incident in real-time, and chat with other “citizens.” A previous version of the app, “Vigilante,” launched in New York in October 2016, but was removed due to criticism that it literally promoted vigilante behavior. Huh.

Personally, I believe it’s an inherently dangerous idea, and a concept that needs to be thought out carefully before implementing in a real-world environment. I think there’s a lot of research that needs to be done to help ensure the safety of human life, and to protect innocent people from becoming murder victims themselves.

There are places to watch Wisdom of the Crowd online, and a quick Google search of the title followed by “watch online now” should get you started. I encourage anyone interested in the idea of crowdsourced crime solving to sit through the pilot and see whether you’d enjoy exploring the show further.

I think I’ll end with a quote from an interview by USA Today with actor Richard T. Jones, who plays the by-the-books detective (and Jeffrey Tanner side-kick) Tommy Cavanaugh: “If we allow the crowd to do it, the control is lost … That’s the confusion in the tightrope we walk. We’re excited about the possibilities [of Sophe], but concerned about the lack of control. For sure there’s a parallel between Sophe and the real-life technology available to people today. That’s why this is so interesting.”

Chris & Chris Media: A Message to Microsoft’s Xbox Division

I wrote an open letter/nasty-gram to Microsoft’s Xbox division on November 4, 2017. Check it out on Chris & Chris Media!

A Message to Microsoft’s Xbox Division

 

Artist Analysis: Lorn [Part 1]

Lorn (Artist Pic)Marcos Ortega, aka “Lorn.”

Marcos Ortega, better known by his stage name, “Lorn,” is just one of those artists you can’t help but respect. His work meets crisp breaks with deep, snarling basslines and visceral ambiances. Pick any track, and you’ll find an unimaginably immersive soundscape doused in rich and powerful, yet intricate melodies.

Three years ago, Lorn scored the darker half of the bestselling Playstation game, “Killzone Shadow Fall.” His music captures the hardships faced by the “Helghast,” a faction of outcasts living in a futuristic dystopian favela, ravaged by war and destruction. If I had the money, I’d buy a new $300 console just to play that game… It’s, like, insanely good. Watch the damn trailer already.

Lorn’s life is rather secretive. He’s played shows and been interviewed a few times, but there’s not much else you can scrape off the web. One interview may be found here, and a Killzone behind-the-scenes interview is located here. He has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and overcome some intense personal challenges prior to signing with the Brainfeeder label. Lorn’s song “Tomorrow” was noticed by Flying Lotus—the genius behind Brainfeeder—who quickly recruited Lorn to the collective.

His first album, “Nothing Else,” was released in 2010, and features one of my all-time favorite songs, “Cherry Moon,” an ethereal, melancholic masterpiece. I will never forget the first time I heard it—playing DiRT 3 on my XBOX, surfing on loose gravel through a dense, vibrant forest; the digital world screaming past as I flew over the finish line. It was surreal.

Every time I listen to Lorn’s music, I think, “how the f*** did he do that?” Waves of jealousy surge through me: How can I recreate the same sound? What does he sample? And what kind of distortion does he use to eviscerate the living hell out of it? Gripping stuff, really.

I’ll try to examine some of his production techniques in a future post.

Hello World! (And Some Thoughts)

Dr. Evil is Hip“I’m ‘hip.’ I’m ‘with it.'”

I’m starting this blog because it’s time to create a place where I can share my thoughts. Not just a Facebook post—somewhere I can really add context to my nonsense. I think people would learn some interesting stuff too.

This thing will probably focus on music production, medicine, philosophy, maybe some politics sprinkled in… hell, who knows?

Only one way to find out.

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