Artificial Intelligence and the Crime Novel

I’ve been thinking lately about how future societal developments will impact both criminal activity and the crime novel. In my last blog I spoke about how the coming cashless monetary system will affect criminality and how crime authors will adapt to it.

Today I want discuss how artificial intelligence might change the way criminals subvert the law, and the way law enforcement will use it to maintain law and order. This subject is so vast that my blog post will not even begin to touch on the many issues of machine learning. For the sake of brevity, I’ll try to address the larger issues facing us. And it’s not just science fiction I’m talking about. In many ways the future has arrived and is present as I write this. Now we have cars without drivers, robotic workers and smart devices that do many of our tasks.

When we talk about AI we’re generally talking about machine learning. This could range from computers to robotic arms to lifelike robots who resemble humans. From there we venture to deep learning and applied intelligence, to mention just a few of the AI areas of interest. What about the development of a responsible AI? Or an AI that operates under a strict moral code? Is that even possible? What if in the future robots become so lifelike that humans enter into romantic relationships with them. If this happens, can robots be programmed to be kind and gentle lovers? Or not to be physically or emotionally abusive? Not to engage in violent crimes such as rape and kidnapping?

What about a robot as a detective or PI? Will there come a day when a private citizen will hire a humanoid robot to solve a violent crime? The investigative powers of a deep learning machine would be incredibly effective and efficient. Would it take away from the humanity of the PIs and detectives we’ve come to know and love in literature? There is no doubt it would. But then new issues would arise that would make writing about AI crime even more fascinating. So how do we tackle such questions as writers of crime fiction and deal with the future of AI? How do we tell stories that maintain the traditions of our humanity and while at the same time entertain?

The deep and applied learning applications configured in machine learning means that robots will become smarter over time, and most likely more intelligent than the humans who created them. Will they use their superior knowledge to help mankind or hurt them? Hal 9000 in 2001 Space Odyssey sought to do the moral thing because of an ambiguously written mission statement. Will it be a lack of linguistic specifics that creates the moral gray area where AIs operate. Maybe it’s the programmers who will need to adjust and prioritize their values when writing code for AI. And assuming the programmer writes lazy and ambiguous code, the AI will have to make certain judgement calls on its own that may be the least ethical decisions of all. Will that be where conflict and dramatic elements come in handy for us crime writers? It will be interesting to see where this all plays out. Maybe the robots will be able to repair themselves and overrule human error.

In the meanwhile, here are some of my favorite films and books to consider if you’re thinking about these important AI questions.

-2001 Space Odyssey, both novel and movie by Arthur C. Clarke

-The Perfect Wife, a great sci-fi domestic thriller novel by J.P. Delaney.

-Klara and the Sun, a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro

-Ex Machina, a great sci-if movie about humanoid robots

-Heartificial Intelligence by John C. Havens

-Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott

About joesouza

I am a writer of crime novels
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4 Responses to Artificial Intelligence and the Crime Novel

  1. Interesting fiction and nonfiction writing possibilities and societal/cultural issues!

    See also:

    RoboCop (!987) and the Robocop remake ((2014)

  2. Monica says:

    All the Isaac Asimov Robot books cover this pretty well, including the Three Laws of Robotics which preclude robots from causing harm to humans. There are some moral dilemmas around that including the romantic question you raised.

    Elijah Baley is the detective in the series that includes his robotic partner R Daneel.

  3. John Clark says:

    The possibilities are endless. Stakeouts-robot detectives who can hang from the side of a building for as long as needed with motion activated camera lenses implanted in eye sockets. Others able to detect conversations a mile away. Assassins accurate at scary distances, and that self destruct completely when pursued. And Blade Runner, one of my favorite movies.

  4. kaitlynkathy says:

    Donna Andrews wrote a cozy series with an AI detective named Turing probably 20 years ago now. It worked pretty well with the help of some human Watsons.

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