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Forensic science in the information age

Perlin, M.W. Forensic science in the information age. Forensic Magazine, 9(2):17-21, 2012.




An information age demands information. We expect a Google search to return thorough, objective and informative results, using the best available probability computer model methods. Our human minds ask questions, and we rely on the computer to calculate the best answers. Whether cracking a code, diagnosing disease, piloting a plane or working on Wall Street, our lives and livelihoods depend on computer thought. Apprehending criminals through forensic intelligence is no exception - we want the most informative computers working 24/7 to provide protection.

DNA laboratories are now bringing computers on board to extend their forensic examiners' analytic capability. A scientist can organize evidence and frame forensic questions - robots and computers can then automate the mechanics. A forensic scientist can incorporate informative DNA match statistics from complex mixture calculations into their case reports, and provide testimony in court. Experts excel at human activities, while computers are better calculators. Even before their crime labs deploy computer interpretation, police investigators and trial attorneys can rely on the private sector to deliver computer processing, case reports and expert witness services.

The NAS report identified ways to strengthen forensic science. In addition to sound scientific data, the criminal justice system relies on thorough, objective and informative interpretation of such data. DNA has paved the way once more, and shown how reliable computer interpretation can address these scientific needs, complementing human cognition. Forensic science is now embracing the information age, extending the human mind with objective and informative computer solutions.