Crystal Ball Gazing: The Future of Private Investigations

Posted by on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

“History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”   John F. Kennedy

A crystal ball may seem like an archaic reference, but it too is going digital. According to, Darpa, the Pentagon’s research division, is developing a software application which is essentially a digital crystal ball to forecast the results of military action.

Sometimes I like to entertain younger people (by younger I mean 30 years of age) with stories about the non-digital world I grew up in. I mean the analog world, only we spelled it “analogue”.  The world of reality. Not reality TV or virtual reality. The world of paper. Stacks and stacks of paper. Carbon paper for typewritten copies, letters that weren’t spam that came in stamped envelopes, Rolodexes of contact information. In this world of rotary phones and silver emulsion film in cameras, private investigators did what we have been doing since Eugène François Vidocq started the first private investigation agency in 1833. We investigated. Still photographs captured a slower paced world.

Maybe the future of the world is as bleak as some say it is, but I prefer to remain optimistic about humanity.

America has become a safer and more “just society” in the past 100 years. Sure, there is still poverty and racism. We will never be free from all of our negative traits, but we have learned from the past and we enact laws to protect our citizens. Private investigators are doing more work then ever to improve the quality of life for the average person. We investigate crimes such as mortgage fraud or Ponzi schemes that cause financial devastation. Economic woes will continue to result in an increase in financial crimes. Cuts to law enforcement funding are sending more of this work in our direction.

You can’t mention private investigation without talking about domestics. Infidelity is synonymous with PI work in the mind of the general public. We may not have the nuclear families of the 50s, but I think this is one area where there will be a decline in the demand for our services. I know many young people and they are waiting to get married and have children. They are more sophisticated then we were, and they don’t want to make the same mistakes as their parents. Couples may live together common law, or be in same sex marriages, but the younger generation is making it work. That said, we are all human and from Adam and Eve into infinity, relationships will get messy.

My boomer generation and the previous ones gave no thought to the environment, and look at the mess we are in now. I don’t know about global warming, but I know this: as more environmental disasters occur and more regulations are enforced to protect Mother Earth, there will still be individuals and corporations who will break those laws. I envision a growing trend in private investigators who specialize in environmental issues.

Terrorism became real to us on 9/11. It has had a significant impact on the way we do things in America, from the way we travel to the way we access our buildings. There will be many more opportunities for the private security and investigation industry to participate in protecting the security of our country. Many in our field are already working with Homeland Security.

Technology is the greatest and most positive change in our lives and in our industry. As we invent new devices to make our lives easier and our work more efficient, criminals also devise ways to utilize technology to commit crimes. Cybercrime is not going away and will be an even greater threat in the future. I’m not even going to start getting into the power of the Internet and how it has changed our world. My posts are lengthy but that would be a book. Or a library (online).

How we keep track of our comings and goings is fodder for thousands of conversations on Internet forums.  For some time now, there has been a drive to get parents to fingerprint their children, in the event that your child becomes lost, or is kidnapped. It is now possible, and recommended by some groups to keep your child’s DNA profile on file. It is horrendous to think about why you would need to access this information, but the service is available. Read “Registering Children for Future Identification by Sheila L. Stephens“.

The day will come, and it is no longer science fiction, when we will all be implanted with microchips. My dog has one. Human use isn’t far off. In fact, some people do this as a hobby. Kevin Warwick, a British scientist was the first to implant this device in 1998. Amal Graafstra has done the same thing, for his own personal reasons.

Use of retinal scans, facial recognition software and other forms of evolving technologies are now being levitra online cheap used by security firms to identify individuals and control access to buildings. Surveillance drones will become smaller and affordable enough to be utilized by investigation companies.

Relax people, this is not the dystopian world as fantasized by George Orwell in 1948, when he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. 1984 has come and gone and we still value our freedom enough not to let that happen. We need to keep a reign on science and technology in some areas, by weighing the benefits with the potential for harm and forecasting the outcomes. With every new advance that impacts our freedom, legislation needs to be enacted to protect the privacy of our citizens. It is a delicate balancing act.  Click the link for a list of emerging technologies.

One thing will never change. We have one thing in common and it doesn’t require computer chips or power. We are capable of far more than we know. Forget artificial intelligence, it has all been birthed from the same place, the human mind. An investigator with a creative mind, critical thinking skills, and the ability to analyze intelligence and collect data will still outperform any technological creation.


Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.

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