Artificial intelligence applications are popping up everywhere these days, from our Internet browsing to smart homes and self-driving cars. Now a group of researchers is launching a new AI-led study that will collect data from recently released prisoners. The ultimate goal of the project is to identify – and, ostensibly, one day eliminate – the psychological and physiological triggers that cause recidivism among parolees.
Researchers at Purdue University Polytechnic Institute plan to monitor volunteer parolees using a panoply of AI-powered tools and methods, including smartphones and biometric wearable bracelets. These gadgets will record and analyze a variety of data, such as the ex-prisoners’ biological information (heart rate), photos, and location meta-data.
According to project-leads Marcus Rogers and Umit Karabiyik, the resulting data will assist them in conducting a forensic psychological analysis. While the monitoring will be gauged in intervals – not real-time – they believe it will help build a profile of the risky behaviors and stressful triggers that recent parolees face when returning to the outside world.
Citing a Department of Justice study, the researchers say over 80 percent of prisoners released from state prisons get arrested in their first 9 years and a plurality of those prisoners get arrested in less than a year.
Karabiyik notes: “The major reason recidivism is so high is the parolees don’t feel like they belong in the community. They have a hard time, and they immediately go back to their old criminal habits. Their old criminal communities are very welcoming.”
The study will conscript 250 volunteer parolees – after obtaining their families’ consent, too – upon their release. Half of them will receive treatment and biometric tracking devices, which will monitor them for four years; the other half will serve as the control group.
The Purdue University research team will partner with the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, the Tippecanoe County/Purdue High Tech Crime Unit and the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department.
“The goal of the study is to identify opportunities for early intervention to better assist those individuals to integrate back into general society successfully,” Rogers said.
He believes that technology can be used to inculcate coping mechanisms and social skills for released prisoners. By reducing the number of re-offenses, he says caseworkers will be able to manage their jobs better.
“In the end, we want to develop a system that will allow the caseworkers to more quickly identify those individuals that seem to be on a path that would lead to recidivism.”
This is not the first time an academic team has used electronic surveillance to monitor parolees. In 2017, criminology researchers used smartphones to track released prisoners who were struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems. They used algorithms to study everything from parolee movements to sleep patterns, hoping that such tech could one day allow caseworkers to intervene.
Are new surveillance and artificial intelligence-led research projects a useful scientific collection of data that could ultimately help parolees? Or is it a panopticon-like surveillance application that could end up exclusively in the hands of law enforcement?
While the project carries a certain altruistic resonance, some civil liberty activists worry that such an application could end up being abused as yet another police surveillance tool.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.
Get Castrated If You Want to Age Slower and Live Longer, Scientists Say
New research suggests that if men want to delay their aging in an effective way, all they have to do is – wait for it – get castrated.
A study by an international team of scientists from New Zealand’s University of Otago found that the castration of male sheep successfully delayed their aging compared to males whose genitalia was intact – and the same principle would hold for human males.
The study could give us some crucial insights into why women live longer than men.
“Both farmers and scientists have known for some time that castrated male sheep live on average much longer than their intact counterparts; however, this is the first time anyone has looked at DNA to see if it also ages slower,” said the lead author of the study, Victoria Sugrue.
The study also shows how cutting-edge technology has allowed us to gain surprising insights from DNA and the rate at which it ages, including the ability to estimate the age of humans based solely on analyzing their DNA.
“We developed a way to measure biological age in a broad range of mammals — we have looked at over 200 species so far and discovered surprising commonality in which animals age,” said study co-author Steve Horvath of UCLA. “But the sheep study was unique in that it specifically isolated the effects of male hormones on aging.”
Using an “epigenetic clock” invented by Horvath to measure age, researchers were able to find that male and female sheep had quite different aging patterns for their DNA.
“We found that males and females have very different patterns of DNA aging in sheep; and that despite being male, the castrates [wethers] had very feminine characteristics at specific DNA sites,” said research team co-leader Tim Hore.
These findings can also apply to humans.
“Interestingly, those sites most affected by castration also bind to receptors of male hormones in humans at a much greater rate than we would expect by chance,” Hore said. “This provides a clear link between castration, male hormones and sex-specific differences in DNA aging.”
Scientists Find Possible New Signs of Alien Life on Saturn’s Icy Moon
A new study suggests that Saturn moon Enceladus, which is covered in an icy crust, could be a great place for life to exist.
New evidence collected by NASA’s retired Cassini spacecraft offers tantalizing details on the chemical makeup of the water plumes erupting from Enceladus.
The heavy amount of methane – a gas associated with life on Earth – suggests that underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, there could be a huge ocean of briny water potentially teeming with life.
The new study by researchers from the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences & Lettres University also found that there was a relatively high concentration of molecules of dihydrogen and carbon dioxide.
“We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that ‘eat’ the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?” asked University of Arizona associate professor and lead author of the study Prof. Regis Ferriere.
Scientists have long speculated that conditions on Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and sources of warmth, could be conducive to the development of living creatures.
However, one possible explanation for the chemical composition of water on Enceladus could be the existence of microbes on the Saturn moon.
“In other words, we can’t discard the ‘life hypothesis’ as highly improbable,” Ferriere noted. “To reject the life hypothesis, we need more data from future missions.”
Confirmation of the “life hypothesis” will likely remain elusive for the foreseeable future.
“Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” Ferriere said.