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Monday, August 14, 2006

U.S. government sends Blade Runners to look for Replicants at Knoxville airport

Don't you just hate it when real life starts to imitate the movie Blade Runner too much?

Here's the story from the Wall Street Journal:

Which Travelers Have 'Hostile Intent'? Biometric Device May Have the Answer
August 14, 2006

At airport security checkpoints in Knoxville, Tenn. this summer, scores of departing passengers were chosen to step behind a curtain, sit in a metallic oval booth and don headphones.

With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses -- blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels -- that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.

The trial of the Israeli-developed system represents an effort by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to determine whether technology can spot passengers who have "hostile intent." In effect, the screening system attempts to mechanize Israel's vaunted airport-security process by using algorithms, artificial-intelligence software and polygraph principles.

Neither the TSA nor Suspect Detection Systems Ltd., the Israeli company, will discuss the Knoxville trial, whose primary goal was to uncover the designated bad guys, not to identify threats among real travelers. They won't even say what questions were asked of travelers, though the system is generally designed to measure physical responses to hot-button questions like "Are you planning to immigrate illegally?" or "Are you smuggling drugs."


How is this not the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner?! Here's the user's end of the machine:
And here's the description of the test from Wikipedia:
The Voight-Kampff is a polygraph-like machine used by the LAPD's Blade Runner units to assist in the testing of an individual to see if he or she is a replicant. It measures bodily functions such as respiration, "blush response", heart rate and eye movement in response to emotionally provocative questions. In the film two replicants take the test: Leon (played by Brion James) and Rachael (played by Sean Young). In Blade Runner, Deckard tells Tyrell that it usually takes 20 to 30 cross-referenced questions to distinguish a replicant. With Rachael it takes more than a hundred.

Description from the original 1982 Blade Runner presskit:

"A very advanced form of lie detector that measures contractions of the iris muscle and the presence of invisible airborne particles emitted from the body. The bellows were designed for the latter function and give the machine the menacing air of a sinister insect. The VK is used primarily by Blade Runners to determine if a suspect is truly human by measuring the degree of his empathic response through carefully worded questions and statements."
There's no word yet on how many "skinjobs" have been nabbed in Knoxville so far.


qemuel said...

"May I ask you a personal question?"
"Have you ever retired a human by mistake?"
"But in your position that is a risk."

Disturbing prospect, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

well here we go...

Iranian, Syrian Strongmen Try to Dilute Hopes for Peace in Mideast