Monday, June 25, 2012

And the future looks like..."Minority Report"?

Did Minority Report get the future right over Blade Runner?

That’s the question asked in a recent article on io9.  When I first read the headline, I figured it to be merely a competition between two Philip K. Dick-based films, written by a makebate striving to strum up nerd rage.  I was ready to dismiss Minority Report in favor of the film with the undeniably higher level of quality.  Then I read the text (always a good thing to do.)  I was forced to reconsider in terms of the basic question.

Consider the following.  The OnStar service has remotely shut down cars and stopped thieves.  There are UAV drones now being deployed by law enforcement for surveillance purposes…and who knows what else down the road.  Police departments crunch mounds of data to determine patterns in crime to find ways to act in order to prevent crime from even happening.  There is software that can flag certain areas for certain kinds of crime (e.g. a parking lot with a high likelihood of car break-ins) and the police adjust tactics accordingly.  As an odd aside, that’s exactly the kind of work now being done by the legendary William Hung from American Idol fame.  Whoda thunk?

Of course the most salient feature of Minority Report is the technology that could identify criminals before they have even committed a crime.  These people could then be arrested before anything has happened.  That brings up certain ethical questions, obviously, questions that need to be asked.  Is an Orwellian “thought crime” enough to bring consequences upon someone?  Sort of along the lines of saying, “I’m gonna kill you” to someone without meaning it but reaping consequences regardless? 

I don’t know but we should probably come up with answers.  Back in 2005, the firm ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Japan announced that it had found a way to remotely read minds by scanning brain activity.  The technology was then and likely still is very much in its infancy, but preliminary tests on lab animals demonstrated that it may very well be doable to see what someone is thinking and perhaps what they are planning to do.  It’s thought that this new technology might even be able to extract more specific information than that from a person’s brain…and from a distance. 

And if the Teapublicans take control of the White House, they’ll be able to scan someone’s level of patriotism…or lack thereof.  (shudder)

I haven’t seen Minority Report in ten years and even then it was only one time.  Looks like I should probably give it another go.

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