Einstein’s definition applies to Chicago as well

Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  It seems Chicago police are fans of that approach.  The BBC reports:

An attempt to use software to help prevent gun crime in Chicago did not save lives, according to a study.

In 2013, the city’s police began using algorithms to create a list of people deemed to be most at risk of being shot dead.

. . .

The so-called “predictive policing” initiative was based on the idea that potential victims of gun crime could be identified by building a social network model … This resulted in a total of 426 people being identified as “high risk” in March 2013. They were placed on a register called the Strategic Subjects List (SSL).

The researchers said their analysis of the gun crime that followed indicated that being on the list made no difference to people’s chances of being shot or killed. Neither was there any impact on overall homicide levels, they added.

But they said the SSL’s members became more likely to be arrested for the shootings of others.

. . .

The Chicago Police Department has issued a press release in which it said the findings were “no longer relevant”.

The force said it now used a more elaborate model that takes account of additional factors, such as how many times an individual has recently been arrested for violent offences.

There’s more at the link.

So . . . if algorithms don’t work as expected or required, use more and better algorithms!  Brilliant.  Genius at work.  Trouble is, the article gives no indication of whether or not the ‘expanded’ algorithms are producing any better results than the earlier ones.

What’s more, one can’t include human nature in an algorithm, because it can’t be quantified and therefore can’t be objectively measured.  Nevertheless, IMHO, it’s still the major determinant of whether or not someone’s going to be a criminal.  “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”  Replace ‘mouth’ with ‘soul’ or ‘mind’ or ‘conscience’ and you’ve got pretty much the definition of a criminal or a saint, right there.  You will know them by their fruits – and there isn’t a single algorithm involved.



  1. No, Einstein did not define insanity that way. We don't use 10% of our brains. We did land on the moon. Vaccines don't cause autism. And the plural of virus is viruses.

    Einstein suggested it as one possible definition, not THE definition. There are many times when doing the same thing makes sense.

  2. "[…]how many times an individual has recently been arrested for violent offences."

    As in "arrested thanks to the previous algorithm"?

    Take care.

  3. You can predict how PEOPLE (plural) will act, with some degree of accuracy. You cannot predict how a PERSON (singular) will act. It's kind of like predicting nuclear decay.

    I can say with some certainty what the crime rate in a given area will be, but I cannot tell you which one of those in the community will commit a crime.

  4. These algorithms show that certain people are much more likely than others to be involved in a shooting! Do they think that's news to most officers? I'd bet that most cops and deputies know who the bad actors are in their territories. They probably even have an inkling as to which ones are getting worse and will do something really bad one day soon. What can they do about it? This is not a movie; there is no Pre-Crime Unit; there are no pre-cogs to tell just where and when it's going to happen. We can try various social "interventions": You can also lead a horse to water. You know the rest, Mr. Grant, probably better than most.

  5. Oh, the Chicago cops know it – check out secondcitycop.blogspot.com, which describes day-to-day the utterly depressing situation CPD finds itself in. Boondogles like this are the crafting of the Democratic Machine in Chicago, great for talking points for the pols and for stealing money the CPD needs desperately for more men and more gear. They've been hemorrhaging officers for five years now, and they refuse to staff up at all. Chicago is going to look like Detroit, very soon.

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