“The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. They can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us.”—Steven Spielberg
Over 10 years ago, Spielberg released Minority Report, wowing audiences with overloaded techno special effects. A vision of a future world where the government literally know everything and is always watching.
It’s 2054 in Washington DC. Tom Cruise acts as the Chief of the Department of Pre-crime (John Anderton), in a city where there has been no murder committed in 6 years. They use precognitive tech to capture would-be criminals before they can do anything. Unfortunately, this tech determines that he is the next would be criminal and he flees.
Coincidently, technology has evolved incredibly fast since the Minority Report’s release. Technology such as iris scanners, huge databases, behaviour prediction software are no longer seen as science fiction.
In Minority Report, police use holographic data screens, surveillance cameras, dimensional maps and databases to monitor the movement of their citizens. Microsoft, working with New York City, has actually developed a system that allows police to quickly collect and visualise vast amounts of data from cameras, license plate readers, 911 calls, databases and other sources. It then displays information in real-time, allowing investigators to have all the information they need, in chronological order, to investigate crimes.
No matter where people go in the film, their biometric data is ahead of them, allowing corporations to access their personal profile and highly target them for advertising. In reality, Google is watching our behaviour online as well as researching context based advertising. They intend to use environmental sensors in your digital devices to give you advertising based on what you are seeing and hearing. In fact, they have been testing already by listening to what you are talking about and helping you navigate the web based on that. We are also using biometric scanners for security. Iris scanners and facial recognition systems are 99.7% accurate in identifying a person.
In Minority Report, agents use “sick sticks” to pacify suspects. These are less-lethal methods that what may have previously been used before. Nowadays we do have less lethal weapons such as the LED Incapacitator, Assault Intervention Device, and the Long-Range Acoustic Device. All of which cause mildly painful experiences such as nausea, heat, and noise.
In the film, a hacker captures visions from a human’s mind and plays them for Anderton. In reality, Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist, and his research team have created a brain “decoder”. Basically, this machine allows us to see what someone is hearing or seeing with the intention of it decoding a human’s thoughts.
In Minority Report. Tiny spider robots cover Anderton, scan his body for information and data to send to the government. In reality, the Department of Defense is experimenting with fitting bugs with tiny robotic backpacks to assist with bomb detection and spying. In nanotechnology, they are using bugs as their inspiration for tiny robots that administrate drugs into our blood stream and even as weapons.
In the movie, there are driverless cars. All we say to that is Tesla.
Fiction may have become fact, albeit a frightening one.