I found the DP’s fawning interview with Adrian Raine disturbing and free of the skepticism that one would think ought automatically accompany broad claims about brain chemistry and criminal behavior. It read more like a PR release than an interview from an otherwise excellent newspaper.

Brain-crime research has unsettling lineages stretching back at least to the era of eugenics. Its objects of study always seem to be the economically vulnerable and racially excluded. That history does not automatically invalidate current lines of inquiry, but it at least ought to give one pause about potentially inflated and dangerous claims. And even if one puts this past ‘baggage’ aside, a body of work has spotlighted methodological issues of this new brain research, ranging from small sample sizes to how much inference one can really make from an fMRI scan.

Raine states the “Minority Report” is “a metaphor” for his research. But he should probably watch it again without a confirmation bias. He seems to have drawn all the wrong conclusions from the movie, which criticized careless policies that might be implemented from reckless use of technology purporting to detect crime preemptively.

Merlin Chowkwanyun is an MPH-Ph.D. student in History and Public Health. He can be reached at merlinc@sas.upenn.edu.

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