Cyber Crime

Report from the Futurist



Gene Stephens, 59, a professor at the University of South Carolina College of Criminal Justice and the criminal-justice editor of the “Futurist.”



“Information technology is reshaping the logic of everything from business strategy to work to pop culture. It’s also reshaping the logic of crime: what it looks like, how it takes place, and how we as a society choose to fight it. We’re seeing more identity theft — illegally obtaining a credit-card number, a social-security number, or other information. As we become a cashless society, electronic banking will no doubt make our financial lives simpler, but it will also make it easier for criminals to access our bank accounts. The ‘Willie Sutton Principle’ still applies: Criminals go where the money is.”

So What?

“One effect of the growth of cyber crime is that we feel safer, especially as street crime declines. But in a world dominated by white-collar crime, there’s a lot more to lose than we may think — especially as we step up our efforts to fight such crime. It will become harder for honest citizens to escape the reach of law enforcement or to maintain their privacy, as birth-to-death dossiers are created on everyone. With satellites, we can already see through and hear through walls. It’s possible that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have the ability to implant nanocomputers in people’s brains that will allow us to monitor their intentions and control their behavior. We’ll have the option of injecting people with hormones to calm them down, or of reengineering them to be nonviolent.”

Futurology Decoder Key

“One of the prevailing myths in America is that there are a finite number of criminals out there. But the truth is that more of us than we choose to believe have the potential to commit crimes. Digital technology dramatically increases the number of potential crime victims — and the pool of potential criminals.

“At the same time, technology might someday serve as an effective way to punish criminals. Instead of relying on prisons, we could make better use of electronic monitoring devices. Pair them with positioning satellites, and we could follow criminals wherever they go.”

Contact Gene Stephens by email (, or visit the futurist Web site