Interestingly, the most commonly used algorithm in Los Angeles and elsewhere, called PredPol, is drawn directly from a model used to predict earthquake aftershocks . As author of Carceral Capitalism, Jackie Wang gives us this description: “In police departments that use PredPol, officers are given printouts of jurisdiction maps that are covered with red square boxes that indicate where crime is supposed to occur throughout the day … The box is a kind of temporary crime zone.” She goes on to ask:

What is the attitude or mentality of the officers who are patrolling one of the boxes? When they enter one of the boxes, do they expect to stumble upon a crime taking place? How might the expectation of finding crime influence what the officers actually find? Will people who pass through these tempory crime zones while they are being patrolled by officers automatically be perceived as suspicious? Could merely passing through one of the red boxes constitute probable cause?16

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Let me predict: yes. If we consider that institutional racism in this country is an ongoing unnatural disaster, then crime prediction algorithms should more accurately be called crime production algorithms. The danger with New Jim Code predictions is the way in which self-fulfilling prophecies enact what they predict, giving the allure of accuracy. As the man behind PrepPol’s media strategy put it, “it sounds like fiction, but its more like science fact.”17

Predicting Glitches One of the most iconic scenes from The Matrix film trilogy deals with the power of predictions and self-fulfilling prophecies. The main protagonist, Neo, goes to visit the Oracle, a software program depicted as a Black woman in her late sixties. Neo is trying to figure out whether he is who others think he is – “the one” who is supposed to lead humanity in the war against the machines. As he tries to get a straight answer from the Oracle and to figure out whether she really has the gift of prophecy, she says, “I’d ask you to sit down, but you’re not going to anyway. And don’t worry about the vase.”