< Go Back

It’s Getting Harder to Be a Criminal

It’s Getting Harder to Be a Criminal
    Years ago, in my book The Dilbert Future, I predicted that someday it will be nearly impossible to commit a crime and get away with it. The technology for catching criminals is improving faster than the criminals are getting smarter. Just watch any episode of CSI and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

    Lately, it seems as if every time a kid gets abducted, or a plane crashes, someone produces security camera footage of the incident. It won’t be long before all light fixtures have surveillance cameras in them as standard equipment. Someday, everywhere there are people, inside your home and out, there will also be surveillance video. In the interest of privacy, these ubiquitous videos will be encrypted so securely that playback will be effectively impossible unless the court orders it. And the court would need a row of supercomputers plus a password to crack the encryption. It will seem creepy for about a day, then you will get used to it.

    If you think you can just steal the security video after you do the crime, those days are over too. Companies like Connexed send security video to remote servers as it records. A crook can dynamite the entire building and there will still be a video of the event.


    I also predict that the technology for “sniffing” the air of a crime scene will improve to the point that fingerprints and DNA will become redundant. If a bloodhound can track one individual among many, I predict machines will do the same some day. Eventually, being a drug dealer will become even more
    impractical than it is now. Drug sniffing dogs can’t be everywhere all the time, but machines that do the same thing can be ubiquitous, assuming their costs come down over time. Someday those sniffing devices might even be in your car, preventing you from starting the engine if you’re toasted. That’s
    the end of drunk driving.

    I can also imagine that any small item worth stealing, including debit and credit cards, will someday have RFID devices built in. If you get near a Point of Sale device with a stolen card, the police will be able to track you, even before you use the card. By then, cash and checks will be obsolete.

    It will soon be impossible to get away with stealing cars, cell phones or laptops, as they will all have tracking technology built in. And the police will eventually be able to remotely stop the engine of any car that is trying to make a getaway. Perhaps someday your laptop won’t boot up if it senses that it is more than a predetermined distance from your phone, car, home, or business.

    Even the days of police shootouts – at least the type that can last for hours – are coming to an end, thanks to the invention of a bullet that can shoot around corners.


    My guess is that most white collar crimes are already being detected, and the perpetrators are generally getting caught, albeit not as quickly as society would like. I predict that technology will keep getting better at thwarting that sort of illegal activity. If you work for a bank, for example, it’s already nearly impossible to get away with a sizable white collar crime.

    In the future, graft and bid rigging will remain the hardest crimes to detect, because in those cases it will be difficult to tell the difference between collusion and coincidence. The minimum requirement for solving a
    crime is realizing that one was committed. So if you plan a life of crime, my advice is to become more of a colluder than a stabber. Stabbers will go to jail. Colluders will own them.

More Episodes