Given the fast-paced and tech-savvy world we’re living in, it does come at no surprise that with progress, comes a new form of darkness.

Yes, true crime in digital form. How scary can this be? 

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Contemporary Tech Crimes

Perhaps one of the most common forms of tech crimes we’re encountering today are those that deal with identity theft. Most – if not all – forms of data can readily be sourced online. From social media networks to banking sites, we’re all connected in one form or another.

And yet with convenience, new forms of abuse to take place. In fact, last 2013, Europol did create its own virtual faction to combat such forms of cybercrimes. This just shows that the virtual is indeed both a bright and seedy world – encounter the wrong entities, and you just may find yourself in a world of hurt!

To trickle it down even further, here’s a short list of cybercrimes that can wreak havoc in anyone’s life:

  • Cyberbullying – a simple creation of a virtual avatar to damage another person or group can result to other forms of crimes. It may sound silly, but think about it. How often do depression – or worst, suicide – and other forms of anxiety result from these sorts of virtual attacks?
  • Extortion – get a hold of some precious data, and imagine the many ways you can hurt someone. From financial gain to sexual favors, emotional attacks to corporate warfare, virtual extortion is a nest of lies better left alone.
  • Trafficking – from weapons to underage prostitution, the ease and convenience that interconnectivity offers is also a resource that criminals can make use of.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How often do we hear of the news that from making virtual connections that someone gets hurt in the end. Worst, death? Consider the latest fetal abduction this year – from a Facebook group to get some free baby care equipment, a soon-to-be-mother met her untimely demise because she trusted a stranger online.

Beware the virtual, for it may bridge into this reality (arguably, we are living in it today!)!

Ghosts in the Machines; The Maddening Truth of Identity

Which we now lead on to the main topic at hand – cyberpunk. According to Merriam-Webster, cyberpunk is defined as science fiction dealing with future urban societies dominated by computer technology.

But why discuss or connect fiction with true crime? Because, sometimes (if not, always), the truth does seem stranger than fiction. And perhaps, with what’s going on with the world today, we may just perhaps be living out this fictional narrative.

And a common theme often tackled by cyberpunk is identity (or, the blurring of one’s self). We can now all create virtual avatars. For work purposes or personal use, these digital identities that we create to represent our physical selves traverse the machinery landscape of the internet.

But, like we’ve pointed out earlier, the virtual is also a breeding place of evil. These ghosts that lurk from within, creating, absorbing, stealing, and even killing other avatars can very well be considered as a new form of true crime.

Worst, as pointed out by the extortion and trafficking examples, these digital demons can lurk out in the open. 

Game over? If only we have a reset button – but life doesn’t work that way.

Looking into Fiction to See a Clearer Reality

Now that we’ve pointed out some of the bizarre possibilities of cybercrime, lets now try to point out on some cyberpunk examples. Who knows – these examples, considered as pop culture today, may be the worst case of crimes in the future!

Blade Runner

True crime can be rooted as a new form of noir. Now, collide noir stylings with some sci-fi elements, and what you’ll get is the classic Blade Runner.

Rick Deckard, a blade runner (essentially, an enforcer who tracks down replicants – androids that look like humans), finds himself in a web of lies. From having to hunt robots to dealing with the existential idea of what exactly is human, this movie is definitely a thrill.

Sure, we don’t have robots now. But think about AI’s evolution. Sooner or later, we may chance into a being as smart or us. Worse, what if that being vouches for its rights? Or kills – just because we are who we are? 

Minority Report

If we had the power to predict the future, shouldn’t we be safe from all forms of crime?

This movie tackles that very idea. Imagine the many serial killer cases. If only there’s a way to find out if someone has the intention to kill, then we wouldn’t have to deal with murder and the like!

Or is it really that simple? Where do human rights fit in – no crime has been committed, so why have someone arrested just because of intent? Or of a prediction?

It does make you question judicial processes. Will such a system work? And yet, this form of fiction may just be at our doorsteps – China did claim that they have created an algorithm that will predict crime!

Ghost in the Shell

Let us now take a deeper and stranger dip into this virtual void. Ghost in the Shell, a manga (Japanese comic) created by Masamune Shirow, details the many cases dealt by a futuristic police squad, Section 9.

Various crimes, such as hacking, money laundering, trafficking, and murder have been discussed in this series. 

Now, just because it’s a comic doesn’t mean it does not hold any weight when it comes to true crime. A common motif used in this manga are characters with artificial prostheses.

Given the progress of medicine today, artificial limbs and the like have helped lots of people. But, as we may know by now, what may seem essential may also be weaponized by the wrong people.

Would drug cartels use an artificial appendage to traffic their goods? Would hitmen hide their gear in a robotic arm? These are some grim scenarios to ponder.

Black Mirror

This hit series not only provides entertaining stories that deal with technology. It can also serve as a template of what we can expect in the near future (do take note, and as scary as it can be, some of the topics tackled in some episodes are actually happening today!).

It’s all fun and games when watching this series. But with the evolution of technology, all it takes is perhaps just a few years for the imaginary to transform into reality.

Take note of some of these bizarre Black Mirror episodes:

  • The Entire History of You – a Season 2 favorite, this episode deals with a nifty form of tech. By having a small computer implanted in your eyes, you’d be able to store and view back memories with a simple blink. Apparently, Samsung patented a similar idea soon later!
  • Fifteen Million Merits – virtual currency has its pros and cons. The convenience of living in a cashless society does have its perks. The ability to simply transfer cash digitally does sound seamless. But what if the system crashes? Anarchy? Today, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin lies there in the virtual web. Granted, it isn’t necessarily evil (why blame the unit of currency over the actual criminal, anyway?). But it’s there – who knows what the implications of trusting in the virtual for trade has for us in the future!
  • Nosedive – a like or an emoticon. Reviews and ranks. Such harmless forms of virtual validation. But it can rear its ugly head once it takes over one’s life. China – again – has a form of a social credit system that determines the “value” of a citizen. Big Brother, perhaps?

Want more?

Check out our articles on How to Investigate a Cold Case and Shedding Light on Fetal Abductions.