Friday, July 22, 2005

Operation pre-crime..... 

Finally was able to watch "Minority Report" on DVD tonight. I had tried to watch it on July 4th but was extra foggy and couldn't make heads or tails out of it, which suprised me because i'm usually able to follow even complicated movie plots. But I've stayed indoors since yesterday afternoon and felt a bit better than I have the past two days (even though it got up to 104 degrees outside today), so I gave the DVD another chance. This time, I made sure I wasn't doing anything besides concentrating on the movie.....I think part of the reason I couldn't follow it last time was that I was working on some photo album pages at the same time. I still had to replay a couple of places where I got lost tonight, but I did get all the way through it and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I had actually wanted to see this movie when it was in the theatres, but I seldom had enough energy to sit through a movie when I was working. And this one's a bit long. It required two pee breaks and a break for dinner.

Plots that involve the notion of free will always fascinate me. I started thinking seriously about this when I was 12 and got into religious discussions about whether our future was already known by God or whether we chose what to do. Around that time, I was also having frequent dreams about the future, most of which came true. This of course made me wonder whether something had to happen just because I dreamed it would, or, if I warned the people involved, whether events could be changed in advance.

"Minority Report" asks the question: if you stop someone who was only thinking about murder before they actually did it, did that person commit a crime? "Pre-crime" is not as farfetched as it may sound. Right now, with the London bombings fresh in our minds in the US, you know someone's gotta be thinking that the only way to stop terrorism is to capture would-be perpetrators rather than wait for them to blow themselves and everything around them up. Some police departments use psychics to help them find criminals on cold cases. The logical next step would be to have psychics predict who was planning to commit a crime and arrest them before the damage is done. The biggest issue would be proving that a crime was going to take place....fairly easy if there are bombing materials in the home, less easy if, like in "Minority Report", the intended weapon is a common household item like a pair of scissors. We don't yet have captive precognitives who are forced to broadcast their predictions. But we do engage in racial profiling. How long before we start arresting people based on what we think they might do rather than what they have done?

Pre-crime is dangerous ground. Consider the fleeting thoughts in your own head every day. The vast majority of thoughts are like blips on a radar screen and are nothing you'd ever seriously entertain, just meaningless "chatter". I am willing to bet that most of us have had thoughts of violence against another person flash in our minds, but never in a million years would we act on those thoughts. I have an exceptionally vivid imagination.....does that mean I'm more likely to do any of the outrageous things that cross my mind? Of course not. Most people have consciences that prevent us from acting on temptation. That's what separates the mentally ill from the mentally healthy.....only the ill ones are completely unable to resist temptation.

I wonder how long it will take our society to cross the bridge from persecuting crimes of action to persecuting crimes of thought? Because that's the way I believe we are headed. In "Minority Report", one of the more sobering scenes is when small robotic eye scanners are deployed in an apartment building. Most of the residents just stop whatever they're doing and submit to the scan, perhaps grumbling about the inconvenience of it, but submitting nonetheless. Some security systems in the US already require thumbprint ID.....retina ID can't be far away. Either that, or we'll be implanted with bar codes just like pets from the animal shelters are. Sounds paranoid, yes, but so is the Patriot Act.

Betcha can't guess what I'm thinking right now....

It would've been a much better movie, and much more resonant, to have --


ended the film after Cruise is frozen in stasis and stored away with the others criminals/victims... that definitely would've been in the spirit of Dick's original story.

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