Artificial Neural Network Predicts Death Row Executions

An artificial neural network computer has been used to predict which death-row inmates are mostly likely to actually be executed.

In 2006, fifty-three of the 3,228 people on death row were executed.

Researchers provided data to an artificial neural network (ANN) - an intelligent computer system, modelled after the human brain - that is able to deduce how various factors within a jumble of data relate to each other. The system can then take what it has learned and make predictions about a new set of data.

"We couldn't see any clear patterns in the data," says computer scientist Stamos Karamouzis, who has been investigating this question with criminologist Dee Wood Harper at Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. "ANNs surprise us by revealing non-obvious patterns," he says.

To find out which factors might be linked to executions, the researchers first "trained" their ANN by entering the profiles of 1000 death row inmates between 1973 and 2000. Half of this sample of prisoners had been executed and the other half had survived. Each profile contained 18 factors, including the inmate's sex, age, race, marital status, educational level and information on their capital offences.

They then fed in profiles for 300 more inmates from the same period and asked the ANN to predict what had happened to them. To their astonishment, it correctly predicted the fates of more than 90 per cent of those inmates

Science fiction fans realize that it is just one short step from having a computer that is able to predict whether society will execute a criminal - to just skipping the tedious fumblings of society and just executing the "right" inmates itself.

I suppose that if you can have a robot judge you could have an execution ordered by a machine. I'm having a hard time thinking of a specific science-fictional computer system that executes only specific people; help me out, readers.

Via Eurekalert; thanks to Moira for writing in with this one.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/27/2008)

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