Technology is not a bad thing; it\u2019s not inherently scary. Sometimes new technology gets misused or tainted with mission creep. Most of the time, tech actually makes our lives easier and better. Here are two tales about \u201cnew\u201d tech that could potentially predict the future. One seems scarier than the other.Algorithm to predict at birth if a person will be a criminalAlgorithms control aspects of your life whether you are aware of it or not. They are used to come up with risk scores and even predict the future. But how would you feel about an algorithm that seems to be ripped straight from Minority Report? It would identify criminals far before they could commit a crime, since it would \u201cpredict at the time of someone\u2019s birth how likely she is to commit a crime by the time she turns 18.\u201dRichard Berk, a statistician and University of Pennsylvania professor, is working on such an algorithm, according to Bloomberg. He believes it can \u201cpredict at the moment of birth whether people will commit a crime by their 18th birthday, based on factors such as environment and the history of a new child\u2019s parents.\u201dThere are algorithms used \u201cto decide which blocks police officers should patrol, where to put inmates in prison, and who to let out on parole.\u201d These are suggested to be fairer than when the decision is left to individuals with prejudices or judges having a bad day. People who support such tools claim they will do away with prejudices, but critics say the prejudices are built into the algorithms.Berk said, \u201cIf you want me to do a totally race-neutral forecast, you\u2019ve got to tell me what variables you\u2019re going to allow me to use, and nobody can, because everything is confounded with race and gender.\u201dBloomberg reported that Berk\u2019s algorithms \u201chave been used by prisons to determine which inmates to place in restrictive settings; parole departments to choose how closely to supervise people being released from prison; and police officers to predict whether people arrested for domestic violence will re-offend.\u201d He\u2019s even come up with a tool for OSHA to determine \u201cwhich workplaces were likely to commit safety violations.\u201d Pennsylvania will start a pilot program in the fall that uses Berk\u2019s algorithm to decide how long to sentence a person to prison.Since Berk\u2019s system will be used for sentencing decisions, it was troubling to read that 29 to 39 percent of risk score predictions are wrong. Berk said, \u201cFocusing on accuracy misses the point.\u201d Um, a person who was labeled a future criminal would likely disagree, but a future criminal who was decided to be a low risk would be cool with it.When talking about crime predictions, he said, \u201cThe policy position that is taken is that it\u2019s much more dangerous to release Darth Vader than it is to incarcerate Luke Skywalker.\u201dFor right now, Berk believes the only limit to a predict-at-birth-if-person-will-commit-a-crime tool is the data he can to feed into the algorithm.I don\u2019t know about you, but to me the whole concept seems pretty scary.Chicago\u2019s Array of Things to help predict the futureMeanwhile in Chicago, sensor-based nodes for the Array of Things (AoT) project are being installed this summer; 12 prototypes were installed previously. Here is a map of the first 42 sensors, which were dubbed a \u201csecond set of prototypes.\u201d The sensors will supposedly help predict the future.AoT summed it up as:What if a light pole told you to watch out for an icy patch of sidewalk ahead? What if an app told you the most populated route for a late-night walk to the El station by yourself? What if you could get weather and air quality information block by block, instead of city by city?The sensors will monitor air quality, climate, noise, sound vibration to detect heavy traffic, traffic congestion, pedestrian traffic and more. Eventually, there will be sensors to monitor other urban factors such pollutants, precipitation, wind, flooding and standing water. Chicago wants to be a smart city, and there will be 500 nodes by the end of 2018.AT&T will provide the network connectivity. The press release stated, \u201cThe data collected from the sensors will be transmitted in a highly secure manner over the AT&T wireless network to a central database server at the Argonne National Laboratory, where it will be processed and released openly to the public. Researchers, city services, and technology developers will be able to use the data to address energy efficiency, traffic safety, urban flooding, air pollution and many more urban challenges.\u201dUnlike Berk\u2019s algorithm meant \u201cto predict at the moment of birth whether a person will commit a crime by their 18th birthday,\u201d the AoT sensors and algorithms that will help predict the future are not aimed at individuals. AoT is designed \u201cto not collect any personal or private information.\u201dIt uses the Waggle platform \u201cfor powerful and secure remote processing of measurements before transmission of data to a central server. For example, this capability allows images such as those of standing water or bike traffic at a street intersection to be quickly analyzed within the node, with only the numerical results such as water depth or number of bikes being transmitted and publicly released.\u201dAoT project lead Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, said, \u201cWe're interested in monitoring the city's environment and activity, not individuals, which is why we have built privacy protection into the design of the sensors and our operating policies.\u201dYou can view the governance and privacy policies, but it is too late to comment\u00a0on them. Public comments were only allowed between June 13 - 27.Having tech warn a person about an icy sidewalk, data that will be open to everyone and free, seems much less threatening to me than having a closed algorithm determine at birth if a person is a future criminal.