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Software to Predict "Troubled Youths"

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the not-a-good-idea dept.

News 452

A reader writes "The Times is running this story which talks about a pilot program, called Mosiac 2000, for a software program which is supposed to vet how violent a person is. It's being rolled out to high schools around the United States (20 to start) as a test-bed, in anticipation of more schools getting on board. The program will be used to grade a person's potential for violence against others, and hopes to stop any future Columbines. " Stuff like this just gives me the willies - must everyone conform to one set standard? Just because I'm different doesn't mean I'm violent.

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An idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590648)

We should all reinstall Doom and buy KMFDM and Rammstein CDs and peddle Warez and stuff. There'll be so many of us that they won't have enough people to take us away in the paddy wagon. :-D


Time to leave... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590687)

So anyone want to renounce their citzenship with me, and go start a geek island at an undisclosed location somwhere in the proximity of the Carribean?

This just cannot work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590704)

It seems to me that many people "rate" others
on a one dimensional scale. Either they are bad
or good, with varying degress thereof. But this
cannot hold up. There are too many dimensions to
consider. There is an infinite number of ways
to be "normal". A program like this would have to
test against a finite number of "normal" subjects
to determine your personality and from there, how violent you can be. Anyone can turn into a violent freak and repeat Columbine... ANYONE. But nobody seems to realize that just because we pass the test one day, it doesn't mean we will pass it again later.

Psychological profiling by a computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590707)

From what I read in the Denver Post [denverpost.com] this morning, they use known psychological profiles and statistics to guage a probability that a person will exhibit violen tendencies. From what I know of psychological profiling, this could be skewed by differences in the interview questions between studies and all that jazz.

From what I see, looks like a good way to justify discriminating against certain groups. What I remember of high school, the athletes and the little perfect performers were exalted by the school and everyone else, and the rest of us were just there. What if the profile says the school's star linebacker could be a violent person? Will that be taken as seriously as if the program identifies some quiet wallflower geek who spends all his/her time in the computer lab as violent?

My conclusion: computers are good tools, but such subjective profiling should be left to a professional psychologist who is able to use his/her best judgement to interpret the results.

Not really as evil as it might seem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590710)

Read the article. its not a test-everyone-and-prosecute-the-winners situation. It's a tool for guidance councilers to help them compare students who are already know to be 'troubled' with case histories. It's just an expert system. No different than a doctor plugging your pysical symptoms into a expert system that will confirm his prognosis or point out other possibilities, based on thousands of other cases.

Thought Police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590714)

"....how they love Big Brother" Political Correctness = Fascism

So it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590725)

So it singles out jocks? Isn't that discriminatory?

Re:Doesn't work.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590737)

I Agree. Another point: If i snuff 100 enemies on "Deltaforce" should someone come and lock me up? In the real world i wouldn't hurt a fly.

Finnish army psych-eval kicks ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590739)

In case you didn't know, there's a similar test in Finland when you go to the army. These questions are actual questions asked in the silly gathering where the military people evaluate your personality and assign you to some military base:

Have you ever been a goal keeper in an ice-hockey game?
If you were a painter, would you like to paint flowers?
Do you hear sounds?
Do you hate your mother?
Have you ever played with dolls?

You get the idea. There are about 500 yes/no questions. Then they feed it through an optical reader and you get a weird evaluation about whether you need psychiatric assistance (ie. totally out of it), do not handle stress well, are especially suited for leader training, or if you're considered "normal"

The test really is funny. A DJ I know has tinnitus ("Hear sounds? Yes") and is not too fond about his mother ("Hate mother? Yeah"), so they sent him to a psychiatrist. :-P

Conform and obey! Happiness is mandatory!

If the program profile you, you must be unstable! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590743)

The wonderful program will classify people as safe or dnagerous, and anyone whom the program can't peg must, by definition, be unstable and unpredictable. And as we all know, unstable people are x times more likely to go on killing sprees!!!!!! We need to lock such people away before then can kill!

Re:accuracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590745)

> we all say things like, "Im going to kill you"

No, we don't.

It would be a little easier if people meant what they said and said what they meant, wouldn't it?
Someone else can take "I'm going to kill you" as a serious threat, regardless of what you think.

Try the old "it's just a joke" or "I didn't mean it" explanation the next time you go through airport security and talk about bombs aboard airplanes. :-)

Re:Hopeless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590746)

yeah, Christianity, that's it. That will save us all. GET A FUCKING CLUE YOU FREAK.

Schools are prisons for children (was Re:Sad) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590747)

Get used to it. Public schools are prisons for
children: their primary purpose is social
indoctrination, and, increasingly, confinement.

Huck Finn would have "lit out for the
territories". Only, today, there are no
territories and the penalty for truancy is
parental incarcaration.

Oh, and by the way, Huck Finn is banned in
most public school libraries.

Good luck youth,

S.L. Clemens
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Re:Sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590748)

Well, let's think about this. You obviously don't need the convicts coming to talk to you, but what about people who do? Maybe what this software will do is figure out which people need to hear the convicts, so they can get something out of it, while you do your normal thing.

Re:Airports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590749)

Actually, you hear about the American Airlines Pilots who smuggled a lot of crack, that happened about three months ago. There you go. Pasted all over the national news. Another person proven wrong. My job here is done.

Or rather, How could it be successful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590752)

If they still believe that Doom and the music of the deranged children caused the incident then they do not yet understand their motivation. How can one determine who the next psycho will be if they aren't willing to discover what happened to the first

do your homework (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1590753)

You don't have to be a right winger to realize that a teenager who abuses animals is going on to worse, much worse. Once you get some background on Kleybold and Harris, you realize that their parents were worthless and that something evil was going to happen here.

The MMPI and dozens of others available off the shelf are excellent predictors of future behavior, mostly because they pick up on past behavior.

You're a creature of habit. People who pick on the defenseless (animal torturers) are likely to corner others into situations where they can't defend themselves.

A boss who philanders with his/her peers is OK in an organization, because they are dating with someone who can retaliate if things get out of hand. A boss who dates those 3 or 4 levels down knows this, and is going for someone powerless in case things get out of hand. Really sick things happen in this instance.

Just keep in mind you are knowable with just an hour's worth of testing. Employers do this sort of testing all the time, and not just at hire. I'd advise buying a half a dozen of these tests and taking them, just so you can self score them. It's mighty frightening.

Wait Wait Wait... (1)

fractality (448) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590777)

Is this some form of a psychological study? If so, it would have had to pass through national ethics boards (if I so correctly remember from my psyc classes). I would not get too scared if it has, since the ethical standards of national psychology boards are usually good. Perhapse the study includes sufficiently formed questions to allow for creative and non standard people while still finding those that are, say, depressed and reactant. Isn't it sad that we as a society can't just TALK TO EACH OTHER to find out if anyone is in any problems?! No, we must hand out pieces of paper so everything is faster and more efficient, and so we have documented proof that subject 'q' is violent. However, if this is not a structured psychological survey, then look out. That means NO ethics are assured. In fact, from history (I can't recall examples this moment, sorry) most things like this have external motives involved (be that marketing, ethical, religious, whatever). Would I take this test? No. Would I allow my children to take this test? NO. If I ever saw this test in my child's school, there would be lawsuits within 45 minutes and several injunctions. Let's hope someone out there ran through the ethics of this monster first.

Oracle Software (1)

Stargazer (4144) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590794)

If there's any association which is willing to believe that software can actually predict the behavior of a human being, the school system would be it.

Schools are horrendously giddy these days, worried about who the next problem might stem from. This is understandable, but the problem is that they will pursue any means necessary to stop what they see as a forthcoming problem, without any restraint whatsoever.

I know someone from IRC who was accused by the school of cracking passwords from the network, and consequently had his server removed from the network (and hence, he had no access to it) without any forewarning whatsoever. This year, he was accused of installing a virus onto a computer, even though he wasn't on it at the time. Luckily, no real permanent consequences have come about, but he's had a lot of hell to pay, and he's had his rights stepped all over in the process.

Personally, I have no problems if someone wants to be silly and try to use software to predict what I will do on any given day. However, I worry what the schools will do with this information -- it wouldn't surprise me at all of they punished students for being considered "high-risk" by the program. How would you react if you were forced to go through counseling and were suspiciously watched by teachers all the time, because a computer program had deemed you as anti-social, and likely to strike out against the rest of humanity?

That's what makes this particularly relevant to slashdot -- young geeks (myself included) generally don't have a great social life, and would likely go under some reprimanding label under this system. We ought to fight against this system, because it's likely to stem into a complete disregard for the rights of those who are misjudged by some piece of software. Kids have rights too.

  • -- Stargazer

Re:copy paste? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590798)

Check out my source posting earlier in this article. :^)


Genius rears it's ugly head once again. (1)

Accipiter (8228) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590799)

Once again, everyone thinks they can generalize people using a test. Analyzing Q&A sessions to determine if someone is going to bring an Uzi to school and spray bullets everywhere is, for lack of a better word, stupid.

17.) John comes up behind you while you are eating lunch, and throws your tray to the floor. Do you:

A. Politely ask John to not destroy your Lunch, and allow you to obtain your nourishment.

B. Inform a supervisor that John is causing a disruption, and should be punished.

C. Pull out a Glock and plant a bullet in John's Head.

Now me, I would choose C, because the test is a nonviolent medium that I can enjoy wrecking the curve. Why would I do this? Because that proves shit like this is inaccurate, and pointless. I get the impression this is being done to pacify idiotic parents who are bitching "How do I know my son is safe going to your school?" "Well you see, we have this test....."

Then what happens? The person who gets a "Great Job!" on the test ends up knifing a janitor. "Hmm, guess we need new questions....."

-- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

This is almost entirely useless (1)

DeathB (10047) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590813)

Everything in the article talks about how this software won't be used until an incident has actually happened. AFAIK, every one of the shootings which have happened over the last few years, almost all of them came after no previous problems. Since this has been the case, the only way that this is going to be useful, is to screen all students.

One of the other things mentioned, is that the information is entered by the administrators, not the students. While this works as far as keeping people from lying, it does nothing towards keeping the people in charge from filling the blanks in the data, with guesses based on stereotype.

This software is going to allow anyone who suspects a student of having a trend towards violence, to back up that claim by tending to answer questions in a way supporting their claim. Directly from the article, "Mosaic's immediate virtue would be in producing detailed documentation of its evaluation of a troubled student so that doubting parents could no longer challenge an administrator's judgment as too subjective."

I wonder if it asks about hours a day reading /. .. sigh..

Only if we have a few dozen OC192 connections (1)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590816)

Only if we have a few dozen OC192 connections

Re:The software will not last. (1)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590817)

Schools will not intervene in any such tormentation unless your parents pull out a lawyer and threaten to sue, ofcorse, once you do that, they will do whatever you want.

Different != Dangerous (1)

kevlar (13509) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590831)

This article says NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING about people who are different being catagorized as dangerous. What it does say is that people with a history of violent behavior, beit threats, actions, etc. will be identifiable by a number from 1 to 10. Hemos, if you're violent, you will be around an 8, if you're different and non-violent, you'll be catagorized just like all other non-violent people. This is catagorizing based on violence, not whether you wear a black trenchcoat or feel the need to pierce every inch of your body. Its not a conspiracy.

Who is going to validate the results? (1)

enkidu (13673) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590832)

What bothers me is the fact that there doesn't seem to be any mention of how they are going to know when the results that they get are correct. Probably when the results fit with their own prejudices. What they will do with the results hasn't been specified either. This has the potential to do more harm than good.

There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself

God bless me for not living in america (1)

thefallen (16891) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590839)

America is starting sound more and more like stories about CCCP and Nazi German (don't know if it really was like that -never lived there :]). Well, maybe not quite, but why does word 'America' (well, Australia too :]) read in almost every freaky story about something stupid involving computers? This, UCITA, software patent madness, crypto exporting... geez. Good to live in Finland :) (well, if I don't write viirii atleast.)

Re:1984? (1)

Imperator (17614) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590842)

Microsoft Oceania 84 is just around the corner. Any day now they'll release it...

Re:Cheap? (1)

Pyr (18277) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590845)

Oh, schools have plenty of money, trust me.

They just blow it all.

My old high school just bought a dozen brand new $2000 laptops for use by students in PE who don't dress out. Yes, you don't get changed.. and instead of running, you sit around and play solitaire. After sitting in storage for about 6 months, they're currently sitting in the PE teacher's office.

The school my mother works at is a continuation high school, with a very small student body. they got a very large Digital High School grant, and instead of upgrading the old 486's the students use for the plato software, they bought /two/ color laser printers for use by the secretaries and spent money on very expensive desks and blinds.

There are hundreds more examples just like this in just this one high school district. They have plenty of money, but the schools buy stuff they don't need and don't use for the staff while they're still using Apple II's in the science classroom.

The software will not last. (1)

Bobzibub (20561) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590852)

One false positive--they get sued.
One false negative--they get sued.

And no test is perfect especially one like this.

Instead, they oughta try a novel Idea:
If a kid gets tormented the teacher should intervene--against the tormenters..
(this idea released under GPL)


Death and Destruction (1)

infojack (25600) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590856)

I wish I knew who made this program so I could go to their house and rip their head off and rape their family. And then during their funeral, i'm going to blow a hole in the wall come storming in and then murder everyone in the church.

Scenario (1)

freakho (28342) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590860)

Recently Graduated Guidence Councelor: Mr. Principal, I have a rather grave problem to bring to your attention. I beleive we have in attendence here a student who could become a mass murderer. I think we should include him in our new "special intervention" program.

Sensible School Administrator: That is indeed a grave problem, Mr. Guidence Councelor. What specifically is so concerning about this student?

RGCC: He has been known to wear black clothing, and he eats at the "geek table" in the lunchroom.

SSA: Mr. Guidence Councelor, I hardly think...

RGCC: But, Mr Principal, I wasn't finished. He also parts his hair like Ted Bundy.

SSA: Mr. Guidence Councelor, none of the concerns you've brought to me justify seperating this student from the rest of the student body. You know I'm no fan of the District's "special intervention" alternative-schooling program anyway, but...

RGCC: But, Mr Principal, based on this data, Mosaic-2010 placed this student into the "high risk" category.

SSA: Oh! Well, I hope the kid likes orange jumpsuits, then. Where's he at now?

The existance of the SSA requires suspension of disbeleif, I know, but just go with it.

Am I the only one whos vaguely reminded of "Gattica"?


Fun to be violent (1)

Trebonius (29177) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590863)

How many of you, when you were young, had some sort of non-graded test given to you in school for the purpose of compiling information on average students? How many of you tried as hard as you could to make it look like you were completely nuts and something to worry about? I'm sure there are a number of you... and even more who aren't likely to read Slashdot.

My point is, violence is such a revered thing via video games, tv, and general school-age social structure, that the results are surely going to be wildly inaccurate.

"I scored a 87! That's just short of serial killer! What'd you get?"

There is also a large social layer of the schools... students who act violent, who use it to scare people and to be pseudo-antisocial, yet would never really do anything significantly violent. I've known a few.

The real people to worry about are the students who will see right through these tests and give them what they want to hear: that they are normal, patriotic, god-fearing citizens.

But hey, at least they're trying, right?

Brave New World (1)

wmute (29403) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590864)

Welcme to tbe Brave New World my friends.. How much longer befor we start sending these people to an island so they do not 'infect' the rest of us?

On purpose?? (1)

leereyno (32197) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590874)

Are you nuts? Easier?? What the hell is easier supposed to mean? You still have busy work in any class, that is what makes it a drag, not the material you are studying. I'd much rather take a more advanced class so that I would have a snowball's chance in hell of learning something. Remedial classes are used to babysit, not to educate.

Re:Source (1)

miahrogers (34176) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590877)

oh so true

basically here's how adults seem to think of us adolesents

if he's a geek -- he's a hacker(insert cracker) who likes to break into government agencies

if he's normal -- he's hiding something

if he's odd -- give him special attention

if he's viloent -- blame soceity

if he's lazy -- blame the school system, but keep giving the military a 500 billion dollar budjet while you stiff the schools and nasa

if he's not interested in science -- make the class more boring -- subtract more money from the schools and nasa's budjet, this kid doens't like science so we have no need for them..

matisse:~$ cat .sig

Re:Yawn... (1)

Oxryly (35098) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590879)

Would you have this to say about criminal profiling? It is also a statistical tool that can be of immense help in dealing with a problematic person. It also makes observations based on trends.

So in the case of criminal profiling, the indicators will point to "potential criminal" for a given person, the FBI brings them in, finds they did indeed commit a crime. But say for every 4 actual criminals there is a fifth innocent person with violated civil rights.

The problem will be compounded with this system because the rating is not based on actions, its arguably based on a person's thoughts alone. How many of us have not had violents thoughts ever? How many of us have violent thoughts regularly? Would you like a computer to diagnose you based on questions about those thoughts? I can certainly see why the ACLU is wary of this one.


Before everyone overreacts (1)

jefftp (35835) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590881)

There was a type of software that went around about 5 years ago for assisting teachers to determine if a child was being abused. It was merely a knowledgebase of common traits of an abused child and the appropriate response to that child (what agency to call, or whether to seek out the school psychologist or what have you).

The point of the software wasn't to screen every child, but rather to give people an idea of what to do when the proverbial shit was appearing to hit the theoretical fan. It's not a big brother tactic. It's a method of storing and searching for common indicators so that untrained people can see about getting professionals in before things get ugly.

Of course, I still own and occassionally wear the black trenchcoat I wore when in highschool. It was not a sign that I was a violent teen, rather that I was far too interested in music groups like Front 242, The Cure, and Ministry. Hopefully the knowledgebase is populated with decent data.

In the end, that software for protecting children from their parent disappeared mostly. No one really bought it. So don't be so surprised if this new fad of concern for children safety doesn't fade away.

But most importantly... (1)

drivers (45076) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590897)

Does it run under Linux?

Anyone know when the port will be available?

More importantly, it would be interesting to see the source code. Just because you transfer a paper checklist to a Visual Basic program doesn't make it right. People believe anything if it comes from a computer.

Joke. (1)

drivers (45076) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590898)

It ate my angle brackets.
I meant to add "hehe" indicated just kidding about the Linux port.

Don't flame me because I'm beautiful.

Automated geek profiling? (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590902)

What a lovely picture...geeks being targeted by computers. Wonder if a geek wrote the code.

Re:The beatings will continue until morale improve (1)

PurpleBob (63566) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590914)

I know a guy who scored 1600 on the Math section of the SAT.

Wow. Getting 1600 points out of a possible 800 really is impressive.

(BTW, I don't quite believe the talk-show part anyway. 1600 in total, or especially 800 in a subject, isn't that rare.)


Re:Detector, Collumbine-repeat (1)

Greg Merchan (64308) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590915)

You say 'probable cause'. More likely is 'reasonable suspicion'. Or does it already suffice for that?

Is this right? (1)

dodobh (65811) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590916)

"Dackin, the principal here, said Mosaic's immediate virtue would be in producing detailed documentation of its evaluation of a troubled student so that doubting parents could no longer
challenge an administrator's judgment as too subjective."

So all that this program is going to do is produce a lot of dead trees and label students as different.
When human beings cannot be that acccurate because *we* dont know all the variables involved, a computer is going to do the judging?

The best solution will be for the parents to judge and take corrective action, not the schools.

Detector, Collumbine-repeat (1)

cdlu (65838) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590917)

Like that's going to work. Lets identify troubled people because we have absolutely no record on them. No one talks about them. No one sees them. Hear no evil, speak no evil. This software will probably identify a large number of people like us as potential problems, when geeks - in general - are among the least violent people i've ever met. Arrogant, maybe. Violent, no.

Then next thing you know, being identified by this will be 'probable cause'.

{can nyt articles be put in 'nnn bytes in body' sections under the header?}

Sounds like yer standard MMPI type questionnaires (1)

np-complete (71517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590931)

All this will be doing is taking existing psychiatric data-gathering methods and applying them more widely. The problem with this is, each program doesn' come with a free psych in the box. There is always a capacity for "false positives", and having seen a fair few of these tests myself, I can tell you that it's easy to answer questions to give a false negative or positive in just about whatever field you wish.

Things like this are usually considered personality disorders; they're not mental illnesses like depression where something has messed up the workings of the brain, but someone who's just learned and become "bad". Now, that sounds a scary statement, and you're right. There is a LOT of dissent about the status of personality disorders within the psychiatric profession. So, not only could you find your life changed on the say of a doctor, or a computer program, but you could find it changed because you're diagnosed with a disorder the professionals can't agree over, and that many don't even believe in.

Here in the UK, we're slightly ahead of the US on the psychiatric thought police track; our resident fascist and home secretary has decided that anybody who is diagnosed with a severe personality disorder should be locked up, possibly indefinitely -- even if they haven't comitted any crime. Not surprisingly human rights campaigners are miffed, and the law may be in violation of the EU convention (personality disorders are considered untreatable by most professionals, so you can't claim it's medical reason), and that's certainly what a lot of people are hoping. Even the psychiatric profession has denounced it, saying they have no way of effectively or reliably diagnosing such disorders, and that as many as 1 in 3 people could be imprisoned wrongly.

This fine piece of populist knee-jerk legislation resulted from the discovery that the man who Lynn and Megan Russel and seriously injured another child, happened to have a personality disorder. Never mind the fact that this is an incredibly rare set of events, the frenzy ensued, and the cry went up: Something Must Be Done.

It's hardly surprising the American government has concocted some equally bizarre and right-wing Big Brother inspired answer to all of this which would placate the restless masses, despite consigning thousands to a social backwater/scrap-heap. The ridiculous thing is, suggest they seriously restrict their gun controls , and they'll call you mad.

Re:Cheap? (1)

np-complete (71517) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590932)

You could write software to do the same job using tha automated purity test proggie, mySQL, and a few psychlogy textbooks (scientific papers if you're going to get all sophisticated).

It's speedy utilisation of a spontaneous yet powerful area of market demand; the demand may be short term or chaotic, being affected by certain classes of outside events which occur relatively infrequently, but whose qualitative power provokes a strong response. Because of this instability in demand, it is necessary that the product development should take place at high speed, so a low work implementation must be found, and a nice GUI put on front of it to make it look professional. All working details and statistics should be hidden from user in case they realise it's just numbers and stuff and can't be trusted.

Future developments

(i) Hold training days for operators, and include the opportunity to become a fully qualified $-grab Inc certified psychiatric professional.

(ii) Extend marketing branch to include doping kids sweets in the hope of precipitating more violent gunfights (R&D report high success rates on dry run with blue Smarties, expanding to include M&Ms)

More of the same (1)

SolaRJetmaN (77987) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590936)

Many kids out there exist who are like the Columbine killers. They play violent video games, they own guns, they are tormented by (and therefore, hate) the more popular kids. I would bet that there are several in every high school. Somehow, they manage not to be mass murderers. You read Jon Katz's series. Were trench-coat wearing Quake players left alone? Even if they had made no threat, not acted out?

So the question is, how will schools use this program? The company says that it is only for use when explicit threats exist, but how many schools have interpreted Marilyn Manson T-shirts as expicit threats?

The ironic thing is, colleges constantly preach the idea that they don't look only at standardized tests, because tests may not accurately judge a student by themselves. So now, while we reject standardized tests for admissions, we adopt them for discipline.

We can talk about this reducing kids' rights, reinforcing the social standards in high school, and all that. But lately, what hasn't?

this is just fscking stupid (1)

G27 Radio (78394) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590938)

I didn't read the article, so I don't know who's brilliant plan this was. This will just lead to more labeling of kids, and in the end more violence.

I think this software will be a "success" because it will very accurately determine who will become violent. (notice I used the word "determine" rather than "predict.") Pigeonholing kids into a "violent" category makes me think of the intelligent and creative people I've met that were pigeonholed into the "slow" category, and now they've completely managed to live up to those expectations.


?syntax error

Re:The beatings will continue until morale improve (1)

Ferzerp (83619) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590943)

The Max scores on those tests (SAT and ACT) aren't that tough to attain. I mean, I got a 36 on the ACT, and here I am doing very mediocre in college. Oh well...

accuracy (1)

invictus (83837) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590944)

This is truly a scary concept though, as is all of this profiling stuff. I don't think some piece of software has a better idea of whether im going to snap than i do. How would it make you feel, "Im sorry but you can no longer attend this school or wrk at this facility because it has come to our attention that you are 54.6% liable to go on a killing spree". I mean, I have a wierd sense of humor, I get angry, we all say things like, "Im going to kill you". We never actually mean it (12 Angry Men?) But all of these things can be put together to form a picture of you that wouldn't necessarily be to accurate. How would these be handled? Survelliance of an individual that scored a point or so higher than average. Notification of teachers in the classes and neighbors as if you were a sex offender? This is not a 'good' idea.

Let's be realistic (1)

jgault (87043) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590955)

Ok, lets look at this from a scientific perspective. It has been shown that we can look at people and from profiles we can place them in certain patters. Many people have taken the so-called "Personality" test that many companies require before hiring. You would be surprised how accurate they are- even with those outside of the so-called norm.

I have seen many people who would most likely not be hired (because they are out of the norm) be hired because the test caused the company/ interviewer to look at something they might have otherwise missed or ignored.

Also, it has been shown that it is possible to (with 97% accuracy) look at an adolescent's life and see if that child fits the profile of a future serial killer. Like it or not, many of these 'violent' people and children fit profiles, and while they are not sure fire they do raise a flag.

Most profiles are not decided upon by what music you listen too, or how much time you spend on the net. Also profiles are not usually based on your relation ship with others or parents, but instead how you relate to yourself. Yes, the do look at how you view certain situations or how you respond. However, the good ones (i.e. the ones used by the a psychiatrist) do not have certain questions that when answered a certain way say something. Instead they look at the aggregate of answers.

So yes, a computer program could potentially be capable of finding people who are at the time predisposed toward violence. So the computer program and the idea itself do not bother me. What I worry about is how such information would and could be put to use by school administrators. With most schools incapable of handling properly the precursor information they already get, I can only imagine what they would do with this kind of tool.

For me, I think the money on this project would be better spent educating the counselors, teachers and administrators at schools about how things really are. With that said, I am also sure that this program will spread like wildfire and the creators will get their asses sued off the first time it misses a person an they go on a killing rampage.

"I say we feed them all to the lawyers!"

Re:Gavin de Becker Inc. fixed link (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590957)

Er ummm that last link was fnafued . . I mean:

http://www.gdbinc.com/mosaic2000.htm [gdbinc.com]

Re:Gavin de Becker Inc. another link (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590958)

From: http://www.gdbinc.com/shooting.htm The tragedy at Littleton was certainly alarming - but it is not unique. Prior to all such events, there are pre-incident indicators (called PINs)

Speaking of ``profiling stuff''.. (1)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590961)

The government has people who profile people, try to get inside their head, whatever (I bet you can't guess what they're called!). These people often have some damn hefty degrees in psychology, and have a lot of experience (and training) with dealing with the intracacies of the human brain. And yet, to accurately profile a person takes a lot of work and keen insight. People just don't break down into nice, neat little categories that are easily referenced (or whatever).

Certainly no piece of software is ever going to understand the human mind (much less all of the entangling ``emotional'' factors), especially since no human being can truly understand another (even a profiler, though they can be eerily accurate in their assumptions), much less humans in general. And guess who makes software? Human beings. Wow.

This idea is just plain stupid from the get go. Plain and simple. It will never work.

Hopeless (1)

LordHunter317 (90225) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590967)

This kind of stuff is pointless. If a person is going to execute something on the level of Columbine, its probably going to happen. This nation has messed itself up so bad we can't see it coming. Now if we started putting some God back in the schools, maybe we see some results. If an when I end up taking the test, I am going to bomb the test so everybody will think I am some Satanist, Computer hacking freak, and going to kill everyone tommorow. Actually I am well-behaved, mostly pacifist, Christian, computer-hacking freak.

You Blew IT!! (1)

Galilee (90424) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590968)

What if the student blows the test on purpose? I remember faling a standardized test on purpose in order to be in an easier class. What will happen to the student that treats this test as a joke?

Makes me wish I was still in high school (1)

jemfinch (94833) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590975)

This is too bad...how many of these schools do you think will have groups determined to skew the results? I know I would. If my high school did this, you can bet they'd think I was the next Hitler or something (despite the fact that in reality I'm an extreme pacifist).

I would LOVE to take that test :-)


Here we go... (1)

renegade187 (95300) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590977)

The theory of this would work, but communism also works in theory...

If you think about it, the students that committed the Columbine incident were of above average intelligence. That being true, whos to say that they dont see through the test like its made of glass.

Then on the other hand, think of stupid people, they will probably do something like:

Q: If you had a gun in school, what would you do?
A: Um, duh, kill people yeah, thats right...

Stay where you are so we may take you into custody.

The entire idea is flawed. It allows the people with a bit of smarts to lie their way through if they have to...and the quietly violent people are the ones this is trying to detect?

Another point (1)

renegade187 (95300) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590978)

Ok, I went through this and i seen this:

It will involve only students who give cause for special concern, school and law-enforcement officials emphasize. "We certainly wouldn't want to develop any kind of tool for labeling students in any way," Vita said.

So, let me get this straight, were not labeling kids, but if you look like you may cause trouble, you get the test.

A Philosophical Investigation (was: 1984) (1)

JPMH (100614) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590990)

Does this remind anyone of Orwell's 1984, only about 15 years too late?

Or Philip Kerr's interesting novel "A Philosophical Investigation" (1992) for a thought about some of the consequences:

http://www.am azon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452271401/002-5356185-8 882646 [amazon.com]

Fair Answers? (1)

else...if (100943) | more than 15 years ago | (#1590991)

Sure, and the kid who's building a bomb in his basement will be totally honest about the answers. If the questions are all like the "gun access" question then they're pretty face apparent.

Although I realize it may not be their intent, I get the impression that at a lot of schools this would replace any attempt to deal with the causes of the problem. By the time a student is thinking of doing something like that, that student is already the first casualty.

1984? (1)

00Sovereign (106393) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591004)

Does this remind anyone of Orwell's 1984, only about 15 years too late?

As a Nation We Have to Decide (1)

EtherJim (106395) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591006)

if we are going to be free, and thus responsible for ourselves, or are we going to demand our safety from government. If the latter, then there will be no room for individual personalities...too dangerous.

Re:accuracy (1)

billybob jr (106396) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591007)

The software is meant to be used as a tool, not a decision maker. Think about a risk averse drone school administrater (not knocking all of them, but I've seen some bad ones personally), especially when everyone is tense after columbine. Some kid makes a serious threat without thinking in the heat of a moment and is suspended. With this software (giving the benefit of the doubt that it lives up to its own claims), the student who was suspended by knee jerk reaction may actually be treated leniently if he is identified as being a lower risk. In any case it's very easy to bash a handful of people who run large public schools, but it's not a job that I would want to do. If you were a school official how would you deal with threats made? The students in that school are your responsibility. You could suspend everyone who makes any threat of violence, but what would that accomplish? An oppressive school environment. But what if the kid you don't suspend is the one who goes off and injures or kills someone else. There are no easy answers or solutions. It appears that the mosaic program might help the situation instead of making it more oppressive. Ohio's attorney general says this: "It brings together the shared experiences of many experts plus an evaluative piece," Ms. Montgomery said. "It says, 'Look, we've gone back and spoken to X number of people who have committed these crimes, and these are the risk factors we feel are present in their lives.' It collects these risk factors based on actual cases and organizes them in a way so we can have a consistent approach."

Forgot how to think, have we? (1)

resonance (106398) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591009)

This is another sad example of people sluffing off their responsibility to themselves and other people by allowing something/someone else to think for them (some poorly documented computer algorithm in this case). When are people going to realize they need to look at themselves before looking at everything else and placing blame? If people would start taking responsibility for their lives, we would live in a world free of Columbines and "evil detector" computer programs. Oy vey.

Example Questions: (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1591021)

1) My heros:
a) carry guns.
b) wear white hoods.
c) wear black leather.
d) are congressmen and senators.

2) How do you feel about the police?
a) I want to become one.
b) Cops suck.
c) What does that have to do
with anything?

3) Football is:
a) a sport all the *cool* boys play.
b) a metaphor of our agressive
and combative society.
c) my life.

4) Computers are:
a) cool. I play video games on them.
b) a strategic resource in my quest
for total world domination.
c) the source of our federal debt.
I'll post the right answers when I find them.

Mosaic! Ha ha. (2)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591024)

First of all, who would call a program Mosaic? These developers must be living with their heads in the sand to not know about the Mosaic web browser.

I think that this is just a scam to get some government $$$. The formula for this business is easy: identify a bogey man, write some software and use fear to sell it.

I think that the only reasonably certain predictor of violent behavior is, well, previous violent behavior.

How do you predict the behavior of the ``all round nice guy'' who is upright, successful, active within the community---in other words, one who fits the ``fits the mold''---yet who one day snaps and climbs the tower with a rifle to shoot at random victims?

Get real. People can always learn to evade the strategies of naive software anyway; just bullshit on the questions.

I just wonder how much this is going to end up costing U.S. taxpayers.

Profiling.. (2)

Ex-NT-User (1951) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591025)

Gee, when the police does it to Black people because "they are more likely to have drugs in their car" everyone screams Racism! And that it's wrong and that it steps on peoples rights. But when they do it to children and especially a certain group of those children.. well that's ok!

I wonder when people will realize that giving up Liberty for the sake of personal Security will destroy the whole idea behind democracy and freedom. Can you imagine having your high-school "profile" get into the hands of the company you're trying to get a job at 10 years later?

"Hmm, his profile say he has a 10% inclanation for violent behavior.. we don't need someone like that working here!" And that being in your "profile" simply because someone that didn't like you thought it be funny to anonymously lie and turn you in for planning to blow up the school.


Sickening. (2)

Millennium (2451) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591026)

Never have I been gladder to be out of the public school system. Columbine was a tragedy, but if people actually think that a computer can predict violence, then Columbine will pale in comparison to what will follow.

Such rash inductivism is intolerable when applied to anything more chaotic than raw numbers, and that includes people. I'll use a famous example to illustrate my point. Let's say you see a flock of swans. You notice that all of the swans in the flock are white. Does this mean that all swans are white? Certainly not. Likewise, this Mosaic 2000 (Anyone know if NCSA trademarked Mosaic, by the way? If so I hope they sue) takes what an infintesimal minority of kids have done, found traits, and decided that all kids with these characteristics are evil creatures which must undergo psychatric treatment.

Of course, the real solution to these problems is harder, and no government or school official can actually implement it. It takes parents who realize the full importance of their role as such, who teach their kids right from wrong, fantasy from reality, and above all else to respect all people. Many parents don't seem willing to do that anymore (note that I don't say unable; it's not always easy to do this, and it may involve making sacrifices, but it is always possible and always necessary). Many don't even seem willing to spend enough time with their kids to notice any potential trouble; such was the case with Columbine.

I'm backing the ACLU all the way on this one. Computer programs to analyze people based on what an administrator hears (which is often little more than hearsay and rumor)? The word "abomination" comes to mind.

In any case, this finalizes my decision. If I ever have kids, they'll never set foot in a public school (not as a student, at any rate). The system has simply gone to hell, with so many kludges and quick-fixes tacked onto it that I wonder if anything short of scrapping the current system and completely rebuilding it from scratch is going to fix things.

Re:Death and Destruction (2)

itp (6424) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591028)

This is really sick. I recognize that it's a difficult task to draw a line between irony and just plain garbage (classics like "A Modest Proposal" come to mind), but this ... rape and murder aren't that funny.

I especially find disturbing the casual idea of raping someone's family because you object to their ideas. Yes, let's commit one of the most violent acts known to man to people innocent of the crime!

Ian Peters

Re:Doesn't work.. (2)

itp (6424) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591029)

First of all, it's not a test. It's a database of information that the school can enter about a student; the more information you have, the more accurate the program supposes to be.

Secondly, it's not a judge of how violent you are at any particular moment, rather, of your tendency to violence. So if you have two different people, odds are one is more likely to become violent over a breakup than the other. This is not a fundamental change in personality.

Ian Peters

Re:Yawn... (2)

itp (6424) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591030)

It is by actions and actions alone that we must be judged.

It's my impression that that is what this program does. This isn't like a test given to students. This is a compilation of the students actions and influences over time. So if the student has been observered (like one psycho who lived near me) setting up birdfeeders to attract wildlife, so that he could shoot them with a blowgun, well, he's being judged by his actions, isn't he?

Ian Peters

Re:Yawn... (2)

itp (6424) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591031)

I'm obviously not advocating violating people's civil rights on the basis of this program! If it's being used in that way, then it is an abuse.

At the same time, I don't believe the information out of programs like this is useless. It should be weighed against other available evidence and used carefully.

Ian Peters

Re:Yawn... (2)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591033)

I disagree. You're comparing two totally seperate methodologies - sociology and psychology.

Sociology teaches us that if you take a large group, you can predict with a fair amount of accuracy what that group will do. For example, if I take 100 black people and 100 Klu Klux Clansmen, the result will be mass chaos and insurrection. HOWEVER, and this is the key point - if I single out one of those black people and a KKK member and put them in the same room... I can't say what will happen.

This is where a system like the one mentioned in the article can do incredible harm - and why we must draw the line there. My thoughts are my own business, and nobody else's. It is by actions and actions alone that we must be judged. To do otherwise invites disaster.


Re:The beatings will continue until morale improve (2)

DeathB (10047) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591034)

3 things. 2 offtopic...
1) You can't get a 1600 on the math, just on the combined
2) Yes, it's really easy to get a combined 1600, and lots of people do ( at least I know several who did )... I'm shocked that getting a 1600 is still landing people on TV...
3) It's easy to bluff anything like this... IQ tests are a great example. Due to a minor physical handicap (I was able to demonstrate that I couldn't help my bad handwriting, and therefore couldn't be penalized for it :-)) in high school, I was required to take IQ tests on multiple occations. Giving honest answers I usually would get 145-155, but when I was having some fun my range was 95-185. Moral of the story... it's usually dumb to evaluate someone and represent it as a number.

Who broke the code? (2)

blargney (15534) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591039)

I realize that it isn't wholly logical, but for some reason I expect programmers not to contribute to projects such as this one.

I have `ln -s hackers programmers` somewhere in my brain, and I just don't expect programmers->hackers to do things that promote concepts of normalcy. It's just a further beef with Windows - it makes application development so rapid and simple that Any Idiot(TM) is able to build a pretty simple app.

I'm seeing another argument in the works here for a professional guild for software developers, a la doctors, lawayers, architects, etc. Members of such orgranizations that act against its best interests are brought to account. It's kind of medieval, but has some interesting/useful side-effects.

Professions that have an internal accountability structure are classically viewed as trust-worthy. In the programming industry, there is increasingly frequently a mistrust on the part of employers for programmers. It's not hard to understand why: certification programs and technical schools are pumping out people whose only interest in computing is because it's HOT.

And they suck. Companies then get cynical - these people who have been certified as professionals don't know their `head` from a hole in the ground. I hear it over and over - people in companies are realizing that there are programmers, then there are programmers. They understand that a good programmer is worth many times more to them than even a halfway decent one. Their gripe is that they have no real way of telling the difference until it's too late.

I think I digress somewhat though - ultimately, I just wish people wouldn't buld kack like this. It might be wishful (or worse yet, vain or even naive) thinking, but I'd like to think that a programmers' guild could preclude Mosaic's development.

Or maybe we could just abolish psychology - I suspect that would cure a lot of society's neuroses ;>


Re:Genius rears it's ugly head once again. (2)

Jerf (17166) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591040)

See, here's the thing.

If the test indeed included that question,

17.) John comes up behind you while you are eating lunch, and throws your tray to the floor. Do you:
A. Politely ask John to not destroy your Lunch, and allow you to obtain your nourishment.
B. Inform a supervisor that John is causing a disruption, and should be punished.
C. Pull out a Glock and plant a bullet in John's Head.

Answering C would signal that you were trying to throw the test. Do you think the people putting this test together are total idiots? B might signal a normal reaction. A might signal a violent person trying to hide the tendancies and cover them up.

Or it might not. This is not the kind of question that would show up anyhow, but if it did, what the answers meant would be determined experimentally, and not by a psychologist sitting and thinking about them. They know better then that.

An example of a real question might be,

"On a scale of one to five, where one is totally disagree and five is total agreement, how much do you agree with the following statements:

1. People like me.
2. I like people.
3. I feel safe when I am at my primary residence.
4. My school is a safe environment.
5. When people pick on me, I can just shrug it off.
6. If my an aquaitence of mine betrayed me, I would bring a gun to school and shoot them."

If you answered "strongly agree" with 6, then you are probably trying to skew the curve, but it depends on the profile of the other questions.

These tests do work; they wouldn't be dangerous if they were always wrong, because nobody would trust them!

Re:Doesn't work.. (2)

Tarnar (20289) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591044)

Better point: The most disturbed are the ones that hide it best. 'He always seemed the quiet type..'

So how hard could it be for someone to circumvent the system? If it was a test, lie. If it's a system you database behavior in, just watch what you do in public. There's always the dark corners of the persons mind where the violent bits hide..

copy paste? (2)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591046)

Whoa, the last 13 paragraphs of that article are repeated twice. Whats scary is it still reads ok. Obviously someone had a loss for words.. But on another note, I wonder how this program was made.
cout > PE
if (PE = 10)
cout "Please shoot on sight.";
cout "A loving caring citizen of the community.";

Re:copy paste? (2)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591047)

Whoa geez.. thats completely not what I wrote :( how embarrasing I meant cout "Please enter # of PE credits taken per year"; cin PE if (PE = 10) cout "Please shoot on sight."; else cout "A loving caring citizen of the community.";

Re:copy paste? (2)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591048)

HHE much better source code. I'm just embarrased that I didn't notice how previewing strips your code.. :(

How do they see if it's successful? (2)

mrchrist (25055) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591049)

Sort of hard to see how you would test this program's usefulness. If your school doesn't have any mass slayings over the trial period, does that constitute a success? The incidence of violoence in school is alreay pretty damn low; fluctuations are going to be hard to tell from noise.

If the program BSOD's, does that mean the student has to be executed instantly?

No registration required copy at Chicago Tribune. (2)

Clonezone (27677) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591050)

The article is available without registration here [tribune.com] .

Sad (2)

leereyno (32197) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591052)

Being young is a crime in this country. When I was in high school a group of convicts were brought in to give us a lecture every year. They would sit up on the stage and talk about how hard their lives have been because they chose to commit the crimes they did. Why were they at my high school? Because of the unconscious belief that most of us were up to no good and needed to be "scared straight." I would expect this at places like juvenile hall, but at a normal high school in medium sized town in a affluent part of the state? This new software business is even more sad. The very idea that a piece of software would be able to look into a person's soul and see what lies there is absurd. Even a highly trained and experienced psychologist or psychiatrist cannot always do that. Sounds to me like snake oil. Parent's and teachers are hysterical about what happened in Colorado and some con artist has now taken advantage of that. Sad, sad, sad, all around.

Cheap? (2)

m3000 (46427) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591055)

Ms. Montgomery, the attorney general, described it as "very affordable" at less than $10,000 for the high school.

Hmm, if that is "very affordable", how come my teachers say there is no money to buy any new computer hardware or software for the students? It's funny that the school board can always find stuff to waste money on instead of actually doing something to actually help the students.

Reminds me of ... (2)

Zeni (52928) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591056)

Timothy Leary, when he was convicted of possesion
of marijuana. His first cell was right next to
Charles Manson, and to determine what type of
prison he would go to, He had to take a 'Personality
Profile' test. Tim wrote the test, while at Havard!
As you can imagine he was sent to a minimum security prison.

He also escaped from it. :)

Taking the Test (2)

zairius (54221) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591057)

If that test says I'm violent I'm gonna shoot someone.

sux (2)

nycsubway (79012) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591063)

boy, this program would've flagged me down in a second. i must have fit the profile of a killer to a T when i was in school.. let's see.... i came from a less than stable home.. i stared at the floor when people talked to me. i had a 2.1 GPA. i hung out with the 'less-desirable' people in school and didn't talk, only smiled.
yup, i would've been red-flagged the second i left the guidance counselors office...

of course, i didn't kill anybody, plant any bombs, deface any property. and never even went to detention. so now, low and behold, i go to college, for computer engineering. i even work at Travelers. and haven't gone besurk yet... but i forgot, that's a completely different profiling program.
just because i never liked any of those very very rich people i went to school with, and showed it, doesn't mean i was going to kill anyone.
for god sakes!, a computer program isn't going to help. and if little jonny appears to be polishing his machine gun a little too much at recess, then talk to his parents!

Gavin de Becker Inc. (2)

Money__ (87045) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591064)

From the article: The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the pilot program as a "technological Band-Aid" driven by profiteering in parental fears. "We are understandably hesitant about any program designed to classify students or anyone else in society as potentially dangerous based on supposedly credible data fed into a black box," said Raymond Vasvari, legislative director of the Ohio ACLU.

It just goes to show you that oportunists will stop at nothing to crawl out from under there rock and make a profit off of fear.

Details about the software to be used can be found here:

here is the link to the homepage Gavin de Becker Inc. [gdbinc.com] and here is a not-so-detailed paper on the product: Mocaic 2000

Doesn't work.. (2)

jatuomi (87403) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591065)

In my opinion programs like that don't work. Of cource you can test people to see if they are violent. But what about when those people change? A nasty brakeup with their girl/boyfriend and they behave quite diffrent than normal. Or some other crisis.. And what if you get the wrong results. The results say that you're violent when you aren't.

Yawn... (3)

itp (6424) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591069)

Typical slashdot fare of late, it seems. Take a tool with the potential to be abused, shout about your rights, claim we're being pigeonholed, point out that we're all individuals, and watch the masses rant and rave.

I'm tired of it. Yes, this is a tool that has the potential to cause great harm. But really, all it does is make observations based on trends. This is not inherently a bad thing!

Come on, people, get a grip. Yes, we are all individuals. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. But statistical analysis is a valuable tool. In capable hands, a tool like this can be of immense help in dealing with a problematic child. It all depends on how it is used.

I don't think anyone is suggesting we just turn all decision making responsibility over to the program, and sit back and let it raise our children. Yes, there is cause for concern over abuse. But don't fly to the other extreme and jump up and cry foul at every corner!

Ian Peters

Airports (3)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591072)

I hope you found my source-code leak humorous, but now for the more serious commentary. First off this is NOT being done because it is effective at predicting who's going to suddenly snap and go on a murderous rampage. There are several reasons for this. Let's look at the #1 reason why this software is being implimented - the columbine massacre. The kids parents honestly didn't know what was going on - and what parent really believes their kid is a psycho-crazed killer? Not many. Even if they do, they try to ignore it. Did you see last night's south park episode? That illustrates my point nicely. Second reason - the FBI has been using profiles to catch suspected "drug carriers" in airports. The result? Alot of people's civil rights are violated, alot of innocent people are hurt, and very little drugs are actually found (try to find a newspaper that had any articles on drugs being found on an airplane in the last year). Infact on atleast one occasion a pregnant woman was detained by authorities for suspected drug-smuggling. She was given multiple enemas and over the course of three days not treated very well. As a result she had a miscarriage. The law holds that this is perfectly OK. It is also morally reprehensible.

My last point is that most murders are second degree murders. The typical scenario is the person loses it due to a tramatic event (ie: finding your wife sleeping with another guy) and goes on a shooting spree. Sooo, maybe we should prevent people from having sex so that doesn't happen?

This is another example of mainstream prejudices being wrapped around some politically-correct methodology and being re-presented for acceptance. And the prejudice, my good readers - is that mainstream society doesn't like people who are different. Racism, sexism, white supremacy, the haves and the have nots - what's in common with all of them? One group is different from another. Welcome to the tyranny of the majority.


The beatings will continue until morale improves. (3)

Myself (57572) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591076)

This is truly frightening!

It's always been said that your scores on standardizes tests have a little bit to do with your knowledge of the subject and a lot to do with your test-taking skills. I know a guy who scored 1600 on the Math section of the SAT. He was good but nowhere near perfect, a few lucky guesses (by his own admission) landed him on a talkshow with some drooling chess masters.

Any human shrink has some judgement that they can temper their results with. This software has no such judgement, and I'm sure its results will be misused.

What if you have some kid with a less-than-complete grasp of the language, who misunderstands the word "anxiety" or something and accidentally gets him/herself into the Manson category?

The only solution is to protest this thing like hell, and attempt to defeat it wherever it appears. I'm waiting for the 2600 [2600.com] article on how to bluff your way through the shooting-spree-test.

Re:Conformance is not the danger! (3)

jgault (87043) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591079)

Exactly! The other problem is that there are varying levels of violence. I worry more about the reaction of the humans than the answer of the computer. Ok, lets say the computer decides that child A taking the test is violent. Does that mean he likes to hit his brothers and sisters, and occasionally kick the dog? Or does it mean that we need to get him some serious immediate counseling because said child is about to go on a three day killing spree at the local high school?

We don't really know, and to be honest at this point the computer is being asked to differentiate on a smaller segment of data (most people are not killers, and thus there is less data to find deviances from). So, what do the humans do? They over react and lock the poor sister hitting kid up. Or on the other side the parents down play the situation and the kid goes on a killing spree at the next pep rally. Neither situation is the fault of the computer, but instead the error prone humans.

I worry that the school administrators and teachers will not know what kind of tool they have here. They will misunderstand it and make wild assumptions about its abilities. Then the minute there is an error they will blame it on the computer when in reality it was the reactions by the humans. If you want to see evidence of this simple read the /. responses and see how few really read and understood the article and took the time to understand the premise of the program.
Instead most made knee-jerk reactions- and then denounced others for doing just that!

Mosaic is a double edged sword. (3)

ringworm (103298) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591082)

The software really serves no purpose other than for the administrators to cover their own ass and create more anger at the system the stundents are in.

Dackin, the principal here, said Mosaic's immediate virtue would be in producing detailed documentation of its evaluation of a troubled student so that doubting parents could no longer challenge an administrator's judgment as too subjective.

This software serves two purposes in my opinion.

1) to label students

2) to save the administrators from being embarrassed.

Labeling a person is the worst thing you could do to someone. It just creates more anger at the system the person is in, so now we have an endless loop. To install this program so that the administrators can say "It's not my fault, this kid was labeled." is just plain wrong. It goes back to making the student(s) even more angrier and more tension is built up. So any way this program is implemented it just plain sucks.

Anyone who goes to one of these schools with this program i say demand not to take it. Fight this thing and maybe one day the pendulum will swing back to the middle from all this knee jerk reaction.

Source (4)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591084)

Psst! I managed to get the source out of the company and I'm now posting it to slashdot... the police are after me, and I don't have much time.. here goes!

#include "manic_depressive.h"
#include "psycho_killer_chicken.h"
#include "geek.h"
#ifndef _POLITICS_
#include "conservative.h"


killer += 50;

if(killer > 150){
/* psych eval results don't
matter, expel anyway. */
do_politically_correct_dance(& parents);

/* skip the psych eval, they're always
nuts */
if(wierd > 50){

printf("He's normal.. nothing to worry about!\n");
/* program notes:
this program should be compiled with -DPARANOID for maximum effect.

Also, profiling support is currently broken -
contact the FBI if you have a suspicion, or
even if you don't - they need the money you



Please, people aren't that complicated (4)

Zico (14255) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591085)

Everybody likes to think that they're so complicated that profiling wouldn't work on them. It's always a little ego jolt to think that one isn't the free-thinker he thought he was. "Who, me? Predictable? Bah!" Well, I hate to break it to you, but people generally do break down into nice, neat little categories. That's why FBI profiling is so successful.

Secondly, it's not about trying to understand all the intracacies of the brain -- it's about recognizing common patterns of behavior in people, something computers are great at. Real profilers know what they're doing -- don't confuse them with your high school principal making a list of kids wearing "Ozzy Rules" shirts.


Conformance is not the danger! (5)

Jerf (17166) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591087)

I simply cannot believe most of the posts that have been posted up to this point. As dangerous as this is, you almost all have the wrong reason.

These tests are not targetting "geeks", they are targeting "violent people". Obviously, they know there's a difference, because most violent people are not geeks.

The tests (from actually READING the article) will work on the well-established psychological principle of analysing known violent people's answers to a series of questions, discovering where they differ most from normal people's answers, and using those to distinguish between violent and non-violent people. You can use this technique for nearly any trait, and it works reasonably well. (It's a blind shooting technique; you don't necessarily understand why some questions are answered differently, but they are and it works.) Many tests use this in psychology, and you can even more-or-less detect people trying to answer the way they "know" they should answer to pass the test.

The results of this test will, honestly, correlate to those who have violent tendencies. It does appear not do it on the basis of who is wearing trenchcoats, who is "different", or who is left out. It is not about geeks, nerds, or social rejects at all.

This test is not dangerous because it will somehow enforce "conformance". The danger is that the test is reliable, but not reliable enough. There are four permutations of "person is violent" (assume for a moment that this is a simple boolean, for the sake of argument), and "test says person is violent." The true danger here is that a large number of people will become "diagnosed" as violent who are not, known as a "false positive". The society will then act on this false information, possibly in drastic and damaging ways. (false negatives aren't half as disturbing; few violent people shoot up schools)

The truly dangerous thing is that, contrary to most people's uninformed opinions here, this will work to some extent. (It is certainly not impossible.) That actually makes it worse; if it never worked correctly, then nobody will worry about the results, positive or negative. But because it will work, those who get false positives will seriously be treated as being violent people. This is horrible (and could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy).

This actually isn't much different then what can already occur (as the article says, it is only meant to be used on kids that are suspected to have problems). But as many people in schools worship both psychologists and computers (as the understand neither), having a computer program diagnose a kid as "violent", after the kid has somehow attracted attention to himself in some other fashion, could well become a Kiss of Death from which the kid will not recover until out of the school system.

THAT is the problem; geekness and enforced conformance have little to do with it. Read the article before posting. (And a lessening in the geek paranoia level would be nice; society is not out to get you, they barely know you exist.)

It is particularly disturbing that the Times did not point this out in the article. Must journalists swallow everything uncritically like this?

PS: If you ever have to take a test like this, answer honestly. They can tell if you are fudging the answers, unless you know what you're doing, which you don't if you're still in high school (unless you've taken several college-level psych courses, and, even then, probably had to help write the test to know the "answers").

from the mosaic2k site (5)

benzol (46240) | more than 15 years ago | (#1591088)


MOSAIC-2000 is being developed for a national field test in 25 schools. Though
the field test is not complete, here's an informal summary of where we are:

What is MOSAIC-2000?

MOSAIC is a computer-assisted method for conducting high-stakes evaluations of
persons who might act violently (such as when students make threats to harm
others). MOSAIC systems have been in use for a decade by many federal and
state law enforcement agencies and major universities. The same assessment
strategies are now being made available to schools through MOSAIC-2000,
co-developed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and
Gavin de Becker, Incorporated.

Gavin de Becker Incorporated designed the MOSAIC-2 system used for screening
threats to Justices of the US Supreme Court (and also used by eleven states as part
of protecting governors). Another system, MOSAIC-20, is used by police
departments all over the country for identifying which domestic violence
perpetrators are most likely to escalate their violence. It has been credited with
major improvements in the safety of domestic violence victims. (See Los Angeles
Times article, October 21st, 1996.)

Two other MOSAIC systems were co-developed with the U.S. Marshals Service,
including MOSAIC-3, used for screening threats to Federal judges and

The MOSAIC method has been widely applied for a decade, already having
screened tens of thousands of cases. The method is now being made available for
the first time to help schools evaluate situations that might escalate to violence.


Every principal in America already has a method for evaluating students who make
threats - it's just that most of those methods are unorganized, idiosyncratic, and
cannot be expressed or documented. MOSAIC-2000 is intended to bring
uniformity, structure, expert opinion, and validity to high stakes evaluations.

Public pressure on schools has led many communities to respond to the fear of
Columbine-style incidents by improving real estate instead of improving children
and education. The buildings have been enhanced, to be sure (new locks, security
alarms, cameras, etc), and because of that, some parents may chose to conclude
that school-safety is no longer a problem. But Columbine had cameras - cameras
that recorded the tragedy, but contributed nothing to preventing it.

Gavin de Becker's book, Protecting the Gift is currently the best selling parenting
book in America. In both this and his previous bestseller (The Gift of Fear), he
notes that many parents are inadequately involved with their children's schools.
Parents are fast to blame schools for anything wrong, but slow to participate in
making things right - fast to develop outlandish expectations about what principals
can do, but slow to invest schools with the resources needed to do their jobs well.

As a society, we don't pay school professionals enough, we don't praise them
enough, we don't prepare them enough - and then we expect magical abilities in all
fields. Today, principals are expected to be threat-assessment experts able to
instantly make fair and accurate predictions -able to identify which students might
act out violently- yet we haven't given them the tools to help them do it.

MOSAIC-2000 is one of those tools.

How Does it Work?

MOSAIC is not a computer program, but rather an evaluation method that is
computer-assisted. It is a way of breaking down a case to its elements, then
organizing and identifying the most important factors. MOSAIC suggests to the
user which questions are most likely to produce a quality evaluation. Once a case
is broken down to its elements, it can be instantly compared to others where the
outcome is known. The case can also be weighed against the opinions of experts in
many relevant fields.

Imagine a student has made a threat which alarms others, and it falls to you to
evaluate the situation and the student. In a perfect world, you'd be able to instantly
confer with all the leading experts in threat-assessment, law enforcement,
psychology, and behavioral science, and ask:

What is most important for me to learn about this situation?
What information will most inform my evaluation?
How can I organize the information I gather to weigh it all most effectively?
What factors and warning signs are most relevant to future behavior?
How can I express and document my conclusions?

MOSAIC-2000 provides the guidance of leading experts, presented in a step by
step form that lets the evaluation process begin immediately.

Specifically, MOSAIC-2000 presents a series of questions, along with a range of
possible answers. Users are offered extensive, in depth explanations of what
factors must be present in order to stimulate selection of a given answer. Different
answers have different weights, so they can be weighed against each other, against
past cases where the outcome is known, and against expert opinion. Each
evaluation is rated on a scale of one to ten, with ten representing cases most similar
to those that have escalated, and thus, most in need of intervention

The system produces an automatic report that documents and presents exactly
what questions were asked, how they were answered, and what comments the
user chose to add along the way. Both the rating and the process help inform the
school administrator's evaluation of the situation.

Each evaluator brings his or her own intuition and experience, and MOSAIC
assures that different evaluators approach their cases from a shared foundation.

Can MOSAIC Label Kids?
MOSAIC-2000 cannot label anyone as anything. People unfamiliar with the
method may jump to the worry that principals will use it to unfairly label kids, but
the objective process resists bias. MOSAIC-2000 is vastly more likely give a low
rating in a situation to which people are over-reacting - than to give a high rating in
a situation people are not concerned about.

MOSAIC-2000 seeks to identify those students most in need of the interventions
and resources that are available, and in the school setting, all appropriate
intervention is good.

Is MOSAIC-2000 A Computerized Checklist Of Warning Signs?

The use of checklists in high-stakes evaluations is the antithesis of the MOSAIC
method. Checklists reduce to Yes/No answers elements of behavior and
circumstance that do not lend themselves to being limited to just two answers.
With Yes/No limitations, evaluators check off answers to global questions and
decide which answer they'll give - consciously or unconsciously influenced by
what they feel is the "right" overall result for the evaluation. Yes/No checklists do
not work for assessments of human behavior.

Imagine being asked to describe a movie you saw last night, but being required to
answer by saying either:


Those answers wouldn't produce a very fair appraisal of your opinion about the
movie - and situations involving human beings are far more complex than movies.

A range of answers is far more likely to stimulate accuracy fairness, and
completeness. For example, if asking about firearms, a Yes/No question could not
stimulate as fair or complete an exploration as a range:

__No known possession of a firearm
__Friends known to have ready access to a firearm
__There are firearms in the home
__There are firearms in a home frequented by the student
__The student owns his own firearm
__The student recently acquired a firearm

A range not only encourages accurate and complete evaluations; it also recognizes
that different answers have different value. To use a checklist that gives the same
weight to all answers would be like evaluating a passenger jet and giving the same
weight to the in-flight magazine as to the landing gear.

Here are some fast answers to frequently asked questions:

What is new about MOSAIC-2000?

For the first time, schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels will
have access to technology and methods that have long been used for many of our
nation's highest stakes assessments.

Is MOSAIC-2000 for use on all students?

School administrators would use MOSAIC-2000 only in situations that reach a
certain threshold (e.g., a student makes a threat, brings a weapon to school,
teachers or students are concerned a student might act out violently).

Does MOSAIC-2000 invade the privacy of students?

The information gathered for each evaluation is held at the school only, and is
never communicated over the Internet. MOSAIC is a stand-alone system, secure
at each school, with no central combining of cases. The system isn't a "Big
Brother" approach. MOSAIC-2000 merely brings organization and expert opinion
to a process every principal already has.

Has the MOSAIC method been tested?

MOSAIC systems have been in daily use for a decade. Society faces many types
of high-stakes evaluations (threats to public officials, hazards to domestic violence
victims, workplace violence cases, etc). MOSAIC systems are used by the United
States Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve Board, the Central Intelligence
Agency, Governors of eleven states, and many others.

Has MOSAIC been used in the school setting?

MOSAIC systems have been in use by schools for many years, including Yale
University, Boston University, Penn State, and throughout the University of
California system.

What will MOSAIC do for school administrators?

MOSAIC-2000 will help schools identify students most in need of intervention,
and in the school setting, all appropriate interventions are favorable (i.e., no
adverse results come to a student when a principal concludes that there may be a
risk of violence). A student in need of intervention benefits, and of course the
student population benefits in terms of enhanced safety.

How does it work?

MOSAIC-2000 guides school administrators through the questions that most
inform an evaluation, then provides a range of possible answers. Answers that
have been developed and weighted by experts are then calculated by the system to
produce an overall rating, expressed on a scale of one to ten.

Does the computer make decisions?

MOSAIC-2000 does not make decisions; it is a tool that helps school
administrators by identifying the areas of inquiry that experts feel will produce the
best evaluation of the situation.

Does the computer tell schools what to do?

MOSAIC-2000 does not suggest any specific case-management actions. It offers
diagnosis of a situation, more triage than treatment plan.

Can schools use MOSAIC-2000 in cases where a student is already
considered dangerous?

In cases where students have been expelled as a result of safety concerns, when
they are considered for re-enrollment, some schools may use MOSAIC-2000 to
help evaluate if the risk has lessened.

Can the system brand a student as dangerous?

Most often, MOSAIC-2000 will help establish that a student does not pose an
elevated risk of violence.

Is the system biased?

MOSAIC-2000 brings a shared language to assessments, so that all users
objectively apply similar methods when exploring these situations. This ensures
that critical situations are evaluated in a fair, objective, consistent, and
well-documented way.

What will MOSAIC-2000 cost?

The 25 schools participating in the field test will pay nothing for the system. The
cost for the final version of MOSAIC-2000 (due in February, 2000) will be
determined by the M-2000 Advisory Board. It is likely to be a small monthly fee
for each school.

How does MOSAIC express evaluation results?

At a keystroke, the system automatically produces reports in regular English. They
include the questions that were asked, the answers that were selected, what
comments were added by the evaluator, the value of the information that was
evaluated, and the overall rating.

What are the technical requirements?

The system operates on entirely standard and traditional hardware, including an
IBM-PC compatible 486 computer. It uses very little disk space.

How was the expert opinion within MOSAIC-2000 identified and captured?

In order to identify what questions experts feel are most important to ask in one of
these situations, three groups were established:

1.A pool of experts and practitioners - 125 experts;
2.The M-2000 Advisory Board - 57 experts;
3.The M-2000 Development Team - 17 experts;

Concern that a student might act out violently can be triggered in any of several

a student makes a threat;
alarming writings are observed;
a student brings a firearm to school;
a student gets into trouble with police;
a teacher, counselor, psychologist, parent, or fellow student becomes
concerned and makes a report

Each of these categories was represented at the Expert and Practitioner Pool
(EPP) meeting at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The 125 members of
the EPP included experts in threat-assessment, law enforcement, education,
psychology, behavioral science, the judiciary, and even some high school students.

The EPP heard presentations by Gavin de Becker and other experts:

Dr. James McGee, an advisor to the Baltimore State Police who recently headed
up a comprehensive study of 16 students who have committed multiple shootings
at school;

Paul Mones, author of When A Child Kills, a seminal work in the field of violence
by children;

Gregory Gibson, author of GONE BOY, whose son was killed during a mass
shooting by another student at his school;

Barbara Nelson, Dean of UCLA's School of Public Policy and Social Research;

Deputy District Attorney Scott Gordon, a founding member of the Stalking and
Threat Assessment Team of the Los Angeles. County District Attorney's Office;

Robert Martin, former Commanding Officer of LAPD's Detective Headquarters
Division, and founder of the Department's Threat Management Unit;

Gil Garcetti, District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles;

After these presentations, the 125 participants broke into groups of twenty, tasked
to identify the questions they'd ask if faced with a threat-assessment challenge in a
school setting. Following extensive discussions, each group was asked to rank
proposed questions in order of importance.

The entire EPP then reconvened for a case-management workshop, where the
very questions they'd just identified were applied.

Months later, after the questions of all groups were combined, analyzed, and
ranked, they were presented to the MOSAIC-2000 Advisory Board (57 experts
representing the fields of threat-assessment, education, law enforcement, the
judiciary, school administration, and behavioral sciences). The Advisory Board
analyzed the questions for clarity, applicability, relevance-to-outcome,
answerability, and fairness. They then refined the list and developed a range of
possible answers for each question.

The Advisory Board's results were combined and further analyzed against what is
known about past cases that escalated to violence. The questions and answers
were converted into Artificial Intuition format and entered into a MOSAIC

Next, the MOSAIC-2000 Development Team (16 people) gathered at the UCLA
Conference Center for an intensive two-day session. The group included senior
representatives from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (coordinating
programs for 1700 schools), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, the Los
Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Cook County District Attorney's
Office, as well as Dr. James McGee, Gavin de Becker, Robert Martin, Jennifer
Mitchell, (co-developer of the Child Lures safety programs currently used in more
than 1000 schools), and several threat-assessment experts.

During two long days and nights, the Development Team worked with the
preliminary MOSAIC program, drafting language and further refining questions
and answers. In a daylong round-table session, Development Team members
reviewed all questions, omitted those that did not meet the group's criteria, and
added some that emerged during the discussions.

The draft version of MOSAIC-2000 is being tested against known cases that
escalated to violence, as well as being used in the field by schools around the
nation. The Advisory Board and Development Team will take the results from
these tests, as well as comments from schools using the system, and implement
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