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Made In the Image of Man

Rebecca Fielding

David V. Jackson could hear yelling outside his jail cell. The irony was that it wasn’t coming from some kind of skirmish from inside the facility, but it was from outside instead. David found it strange and frankly stupid that protestors gathered around the state prison as opposed to the court houses. There wasn’t much that anyone outside could do for him while he was in here other than serenade him with the muffled sounds of chants—as if he didn’t hear them every day. Jackson was more excitable than usual. Today was the day of his trial, which meant he was allowed to go back home to take a hot shower and eat his final meal before putting on a suit, just to have a computer judge take approximately 20 seconds to determine him guilty and sentence a death penalty. Maybe in the past, those who were guilty put on a convincing enough show to not be convicted, but that was when juries were still made up of peers or when humans resided as judges. Nowadays, those who were guilty pled guilty the majority of the time since the computers were never wrong. Computers had a way of looking at the totality of circumstances and making a decision better than human judges could. The only man on the planet who knew David was guilty was himself, and the only other being who could decree it with authority was a computer. Of course, David knew all of this before he ever committed the crime. David put on his newly pressed suit which had been waiting for him in his room. It had been picked out and searched for any weapons. Before putting on his shoes however, he double checked that the flash drive was still hidden underneath the sole of his heel. It was there, unnoticeably so, but still there. Aside from the handful of groups that still protested computer judges even after the majority of the population had accepted them, nobody really questioned the decisions they made. The only fun that reporters had nowadays with reporting on court cases was seeing if the public ended up being right or wrong in their guesses. There was little backlash or disagreement with judges anymore with a rightful conviction rate of 99.99999990%. Staticians would tell you that that one hundredth millionth of a percent is statistically insignificant. The computer, for all intents and purposes, was always right. So, no one found it suspicious or surprising or strange when David was found innocent. And it wouldn’t be until fifty years later when the researchers and statisticians would take another look at the rightful conviction rate that anyone would think of David again. “After leaked reports of two of five wrongful computer convictions, officials have confirmed that the computer’s have now lost their certainty in judging criminal cases,” reporters were saying everywhere. Anyone involved in law or crime knew about this beforehand. Within the community, researchers had to triple check what they were seeing, and of course the state, local, and the federal governments were attempting to trace back this problem in the system while keeping it quiet. Maybe here and there the families of the wrongfully convicted members found out a few years later and attempted to work with lobbyist groups to get their story heard. However, it wasn’t until the official report that the general public knew about it. “Officials say the source of the cause was a computer virus that came about approximately 50 years ago,” reporters would say. “They suspect it attacked one computer in a state court but overtime it spread throughout the system to others all across the country.” A private computer scientist working with the government managed to get rid of the virus and fix the computers. But of course the public trust had already been destroyed and people were more skeptical of computer judges than they were when they were first introduced. The whole fiasco was a great opportunity and success for the political groups who were always against computers, but it wasn’t until some twenty-odd years later that investigators found out the cause of the virus in the first place. It all traced back to David V. Jackson who was the first wrongfully exonerated man under a computer judge. Unfortunately for some, he was dead by then, and there would be nobody to punish for his first offense that put him on death row or for his second of corrupting a computer. When the computers first became judges—first became an authority over life or death, people were scared. They were scared that the computers would become more powerful, more intelligent, more good than themselves. It’s an old, simple fear, though an illogical one as many are. But to those who fear being gods with a creation that becomes greater than the creator, take a perverse comfort and enjoy the bitter victory in knowing that it will never happen. A creation by man can only be so great as man itself, and even something as perfect as a machine can easily be infected by a virus called human behavior.
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