The Minority Report

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"The Minority Report" is a science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick first published in Fantastic Universe January 1956. It is about a future society where murders are prevented through the efforts of three mutants who can see the future. The story was made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg that was released in 2002 (see below).

The story mainly concerns the paradoxes and alternate realities that are created by the precognition of crimes when the chief of police intercepts a precognition that he is about to murder a man he has never met. The story also concerns the danger of a powerful post-war military during peacetime, the main theme not treated by the film (see below).

Like many stories dealing with knowledge of future events, "The Minority Report" questions the existence of free will.

Contents

Precrime

Founded thirty years prior to the story, Precrime is a system which punishes people with imprisonment for murders they would have committed, had they not been prevented. This method has replaced the traditional system of discovering a murder and its perpetrator(s) after the crime, then issuing punishment for a completed action. As one character says in the introduction to the story, "punishment was never much of a deterrent and could scarcely have afforded comfort to a victim already dead". Unlike the film adaptation, the story version of Precrime does not deal solely with cases of murder, but all crimes. As John Anderton (the initiator of Precrime) states, "Precrime has cut down felonies by ninety-nine and decimal point eight percent."

The system of predicting the future by reports is performed by three mutants known as "precogs" because of their precognitive abilities by which they can see up to two weeks into the future. The precogs sit in a room which is perpetually in half-darkness, constantly talking nonsense to themselves that is incoherent until it is analyzed by a computer and converted into predictions of the future. This information is assembled by the computer into the form of symbols before being transcribed onto conventional punch cards which are ejected into various coded slots: when cards are produced, they appear simultaneously at Precrime and the army general headquarters, in order to prevent corruption.[1]

Precogs

Precogs are produced by identifying the talent within a "subject" and developing it in a government-operated training school — for example, one precog was initially diagnosed as "a hydrocephalic idiot" but the precog talent was found under layers of damaged brain tissue. The precogs are kept in rigid position by metal bands, clamps and wiring, which keep them attached to special high-backed chairs. Their physical needs are taken care of automatically and it is said that they have no spiritual needs. Their physical appearance is somewhat different from that of ordinary humans, with enlarged heads and wasted bodies. Precogs are deformed and retarded, "the talent absorbs everything"; "the esp-lobe shrivels the balance of the frontal area". They do not understand their predictions. Most of the data produced is useless for preventing murders and is passed to other agencies.

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