I saw Minority Report for the first time today. Overall, it was a very interesting movie. For a movie which came out in 2002, largely before the Internet conveniences we have today like Facebook and Google, I almost think the concept of Precrime is within our grasp. The NSA’s bulk data collection programs are using algorithms – rather than “precogs” – to determine future strikes. These programs aren’t being used to stop murders of a single or handful of individuals, but rather to stop the murders of hundred and thousands of innocent people, victims of horrific terrorist attacks.
The plot itself is heartbreaking. A man loses his child and joins the precrime unit to prevent similarly heinous crimes. His unit ends up preventing every murder in 6 years, until the protagonist, Anderton, is implicated. But what the movie says about a society where murders don’t exist is quite profound. First and foremost, it says that sinister people will continue to plot sinister deeds. This speaks to the fallibility of humankind – that we will always have dark sides, that emotion can overrun any sensibility we may have.
I’d be interested to see if precrime could become a reality. If the right algorithms are processing enough data, messages with certain trigger words could be used to begin a digital investigation. Humans would then receive word when enough statistical data had surfaced to warrant a closer look. Communication technology is exclusively electronic, and generally over the Internet. It seems the ability to listen in on every conversation is there. It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together and offering law enforcement unfettered access to it all. We certainly seem to be heading in that direction.
Or, perhaps I’m thinking of this only because I’m going to see Citizenfour tomorrow. At any rate, it’s an interesting allegory.