The worry in the criminal justice system is that people will start trying to use neuroscience in their defense. For example, they will start to claim that their brain was faulty and it committed the crime. I think some have already tried this. I think the only way out of this predicament is to completely reframe how we administer justice. Currently, the intent of the perpetrator to commit the crime (negligence included as a crime) is required to establish criminal activity. This is why insanity is a viable defense. I think this notion will gradually become obsolete as the general public comes to accept the mechanistic explanation of mind. When the discontinuity between man and machine is finally accepted by most people, the question of intent is going to be problematic. That is why we need to start rethinking this whole enterprise now.
My solution is that we should no longer worry about intent or even treat justice as a form of punishment. What we should do in a criminal trial is to determine if the defendant a) actually participated in the crime and b) if they are dangerous to society. By this reasoning, putting a person in jail is only necessary if they are dangerous to society. For example, violent criminals would be locked up and they would only be released if it could be demonstrated that they were no longer dangerous. This schema would also eliminate the concept of punishment. The duration of a jail sentence should not be about punishment but only about benefit to society. I don’t believe that people should be absolved of their crimes. For nondangerous criminals, some form of retribution in terms of garnished wages or public service could be imposed. Also, if some form of punishment can be shown to be a deterrent then that would be allowed as well. I’m sure there are many kinks to be worked out but what I am proposing is that a fully functional legal system could be established without requiring a moral system to support it.
This type of legal system will be necessary when machines become sentient. Due to the theorems of Godel and Turing, proving that a machine will not be defective in some way will be impossible. Thus, some machines may commit crimes. Given that they are sentient also means that we cannot simply go around and disconnect machines at will. Each machine deserves a fair hearing to establish guilt and sentencing. Given that there will not be any algorithmic way to establish with certainty whether or not the machine will repeat the crime, justice for machines will have to be administered in the same imperfect way it is administered for humans.
2 thoughts on “Crime and neuroscience”
[…] think it could change the legal system though. As I posted before, if there is no free will then it will become less useful to view crime in terms of intent and […]
[…] rethink our legal philosophy based on what we now know about neuroscience (e.g. see here). The same goes for any discussion of consciousness, the mind-body problem, and free will. To me […]