Minority Report

Movie released: 2002 | Set in: 2054

Summary Table
Event Likelihood Time frame
Precognition extremely low 2020+
Personalized advertising beginning beginning
Miniature utility robots high 2020+
Anytime, anywhere information high 2015+

Approach to the future

Future as backdrop for noir mystery


Futurism: 7
A nearly coherent world, and the best depictions on film of several future technologies. Still, there are some signs of the usual Hollywood future. Filmmakers cannot resist sleek automated cars and towering buildings, whether or not they make sense.

Entertainment: 8
It succeeds as a mystery.

Plausibility: 2
Without the precogs, it would be much higher.

Interesting depictions

The world of 2054 is saturated by media, and advertising is ubiquitous and personalized. Retinal scans alert advertising systems, which address passersby by name and pitch products likely to interest them.

Newspapers and magazines still exist, but with changeable and animated electronic paper. Even cereal boxes have talking, moving illustrations.

The ability to identify and track will grow rapidly in coming decades, in consumer life and every other sphere. Information will be pervasive and customized. Privacy could disappear, but will likely be protected by laws and consumer preferences. Most people will trade some privacy to marketers, as millions already do in arrangements with grocers, airlines, etc.

The monitoring technology of the market could be turned against us by Big Brother, but in the Western world we are more likely to be hounded by Big Seller.

Spidery robots, like bulky daddy-longlegs, are sent in by the police to check everyone in a building.

They are agile, detect and respond to sound and movement, and do eye scans.

This is the real future of robots: specialized and designed for a purpose, rather than in imitation of humans.

Researchers are now working on cooperative swarms of insect-like robots, which could be used for rescue, policing, reconnaissance, or attack.

Information is pervasive, accessed and controlled through myriad paths.

John Anderton “conducts” data, directing it with devices on his fingers, allowing him to interact visually and tactilely with large amounts of information. Retinal scans are widespread, alerting commercial and security systems to a person’s presence. Homes are voice-controlled.

Display is diverse, with large video walls, e-paper for animated news and ads, and a home 3D-holography system.

This future of ubiquitous information is beginning, but only in its early stages. We are still tied to our computers and televisions, with wireless information limited and broadband rare. That will change over the next two decades.

The police use sicksticks, which make people vomit on contact, and sonic guns that knock over people and objects.

Interest in such nonlethal weapons is growing, as police and the military look for alternatives to deadly force. Tasers and chemical sprays are widely deployed.

Sonic weapons are being developed to make their targets vomit uncontrollably or get instant migraine headaches, for use in riot control. Sonic guns able to fire acoustic bullets like those in the movie are rumored. Researchers are also trying to create horribly unpleasant smells that will cause people to flee.

Growing knowledge of the brain may enable nonlethal weapons with precise physical and perhaps even psychological effects.

Other technologies/topics depicted

Telepathy and precognition:
Murder has plummeted in greater Washington DC since 2046, when the Precrime unit came into being.

Precrime foresees the future using the precogs, a trio of psychics created by exposure to the drug neuroin and treatment attempts that followed.

They can’t see all of the future. They sense only murder, an extreme disturbance of the “metaphysical fabric,” and their visions are recorded with optical tomography.

Precognition looks unlikely. No good evidence for telepathy has ever been found, and a drug is unlikely to cause so fundamental an effect in the human mind. There is likewise no solid evidence for any kind of access to information from the future, and many physicists see it as fundamentally prohibited.

Quantum entanglement might in theory allow remote viewing, but for human purposes it would reveal only the present.

Sensing requires physical phenomena. Theoretical precogs might be able to detect human emotional states reflected in the brain, such as panic or rage, but they could not see something defined merely by social norms and random outcomes, like murder.

Crime and punishment:
Future murderers identified by the precogs are “haloed” and stored in a kind of suspended animation. Ordinary crime continues. There are drug pushers and abusers, not to mention rogue eye transplanters.

Crime will become more predictable. Brain science and genetics will be able to identify people prone to criminal behavior, though the prediction will be inexact. High-risk cases could be pretreated and monitored.

Most societies won’t go that far, but many will subject convicts to tracking and treatment.

The real future of anti-crime served as background in this movie: the ubiquitous eye scans are the kind of proliferating monitoring and sensing technology that could make it difficult to get away with any street crime.

Virtual reality:
A virtual reality parlor places people in full-body suits and lets them live their fantasies. A customer wants to experience killing his boss, and the proprietor asks if he has any images to use in the depiction. (When this is overheard, the owner tries to pretend that the man just wants to conduct a symphony orchestra.)

Elements of virtual reality are coming into place, from complex computer games to screen-and-naughty-device sex systems. Researchers have created immersive all-screen rooms with movable floors that allow people to walk through virtual worlds.

Expanding computer power will steadily enhance virtual experiences, but demand remains uncertain. Games may prove to be the killer ap.

The United States is extremely wealthy in the future: the moviemakers reportedly envisioned an average per capita income of $400,000. Nonetheless, people still live in squalid poverty.

A generous society could eliminate real want with that level of resources. An end to American poverty by 2054 is imaginable. But its continuation is also plausible: some children are being trained right now to be poor, and others are being trained not to care.

Personal maglev vehicles deliver people to each high-rise apartment, and are under central control on the highways.

This system could be built, but it won’t be. It’s simply too grandiose, particularly only 50 years out. Simpler solutions are available.

The fuel-cell powered Lexus sports car is a more meaningful future vision. Driving on ordinary roads, fuel-cell vehicles will invisibly supplant their dirty internal combustion cousins over the next few decades.

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The futures depicted in the movies