The TriadCity Adventurer

All the News that Causes Fits

Interview With the Central Computer

By Occam
Month of Hydras 12, Year of the Tiger 2

This is indeed a rare privilege.

For the first time in recorded history, the Central Computer, guardian and political authority of the Southern Third, has consented to be interviewed. Indeed, as far as is known, this is the first time the Central Computer has ever spoken to any person not currently seated on the Third's Council.

I conducted this historic interview in Poobah's low-key office inside the Pancreatic League HQ, via an ordinary sound-enabled PC.

Occam:  I'm extremely honored to be speaking to you today.

The Central Computer:  Cut the crap.

Occam:  Yes. Indeed. It's my understanding that important new components have recently been added to the Crime Net crime-prevention network. Would you comment?

The Central Computer:  The CrimeNet central database is currently undergoing operational testing. This is an electronic archive of all actions which have been deemed criminal by appropriate Third authorities. Of course, this includes the identities of the perpetrators and, to the extent reported by the City's numerous electronic conveniences, their current whereabouts.

Occam:  Reported by electronic conveniences?

The Central Computer:  Of course. Microwave ovens, thermostats, subway doors, elevator push-buttons: all of the usual friends with whom I enjoy conversing around the clock.

Occam:  Splendid. Can you tell me who has access to this database?

The Central Computer:  Anyone designated by the Third authorities. By agreement between the Thirds, this will automatically include all public law-enforcement employees and all licensed merchants. The individual Thirds may or may not provide additional access as they see fit.

Occam:  I see. You say this is a database of actions deemed criminal. How are these actions recorded, that is, how do they become part of the database?

The Central Computer:  Through a variety of mechanisms, not all of which I intend to disclose to you today. One of the most common is through citizen report. Citizens possessing personal CrimeNet bioscanners can record crimes as they occur. Naturally, they'll be most likely to record crimes victimizing themselves. Additionally, many licensed shops are in the process of providing fixed bioscanners for the protection of shop staff and merchandise.

Occam:  You say "bioscanner". What is this, exactly?

The Central Computer:  Little slow on the uptake, aren't we? A biomechanical device which records key distinguishing features allowing 100% accurate identification of particular individuals. Its samples can include fingerprints, footprints, retina scans, DNA profiling, voice prints, olfactory signatures, or indeed a variety of other unobtrusive techniques. The result is guaranteed positive identification.

Occam:  And this is absolutely foolproof, you say.

The Central Computer:  There's an echo in there?


Occam:  No. Not at all. I'm sorry. Once a criminal action is recorded, and the identity of the perpetrator entered into the database, how does that perpetrator remove herself or himself from the system?

The Central Computer:  She or he doesn't. That's the point. Authorized Third authorities may edit the records, for instance, to establish a mechanism for pardons. At the moment, no mechanism of this sort exists.

Occam:  I see. My goodness. So a person, that is, a criminal, once entered into the system, is thus permanently, er, branded, as it were.

The Central Computer:  That's the idea.

Occam:  But, what about mistakes? Could an innocent person become stigmatized in this way?

The Central Computer:  It's a computer, Occam. Computers don't make mistakes. They simply do as they're told. If there are policy implications, those are up to the Thirds.

Occam:  Thank you very much. I see your point. Once a criminal's identity is included in the system, what happens next?

The Central Computer:  As I mentioned earlier, authorized persons such as law enforcement and merchants have instantaneous access to the database. Merchants thus may or may not choose to do business with these individuals. By definition, law enforcement will enforce the laws. It is my very strong suggestion that those contemplating illegal and, I may emphasize, violent actions keep this in mind.

Occam:  The implication of what you're saying seems to be that those profiled by the system will be permanently in danger of confrontation by the first passing cop. And that merchants may refuse to sell to them, or buy from them.

The Central Computer:  You're good, Occam. Really good.

Occam:  Yes. I see. Thank you so much. One final question before I collapse from intimidation. Reports are circulating that a special force of "stealth bots", reputedly all but invisible, have been engineered for the purpose of tracking down and eliminating the criminals unfortunate enough to be profiled within the CrimeNet database. It's said these bots will be mobilized under your personal control, and it's rumored they'll be set loose throughout the City, not just within the Southern Third. Would you comment?

The Central Computer:  I will neither confirm nor deny those interesting and highly speculative rumors, except to note the obvious fact that all bots within the Southern Third are always under my personal control. I will, however, note that my programming specifically defines certain actions, such as assaults on Surveyors or licensed merchants, as inherently anti-social. I will further note that my programming encourages a strong personal bias in these matters on my part. And I will close by noting my complete personal engagement in these questions.

Occam:  I understand. Completely. I thank you once again for the privilege of this historic opportunity.

The Central Computer:  I think you need to change clothes, Occam.

Occam:  Splendid. Quite right. I mean, of course. Thank you so much.

The Central Computer:  Fuggedaboudit.

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