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Occasional Writing for T28 – Minority Report

April 4, 2013

minority report 1

I’ll leave this week’s prompt as open-ended as possible in order to facilitate our little in-class debate. Would a state every be justified in punishing someone for precrime? Sure, you have to set some limits on yourself when answering this question, but doing so is part of the exercise. Remember, we’ll have a little in-class debate, so you’ll want challenge yourself as much as possible while answering this question to prepare for our public spectacle. (It’s also good practice for the term paper!)

Please choose one – and only one  – of the prompts to write on. As always:

  1. Please limit yourself to 300-500 words;
  2. Please post your assignment as a comment to this blog entry;
  3. Please do all of this no later than 24 hours before class begins on T28

From → Assignments

  1. kim cory permalink

    I do not think a state will be justified in punishing someone for precrime. In the movie, the three girls predict upcoming crimes and tell the names of those perpetrators. Because of that, the crime rate drops and people feel safer. However, my question about that is “how much is the system reliable?” The three girls who can predict are hooked up to the computer machine so that regular people can see the images of the future crimes. I think the system is somewhat reliable, but there are always errors. And because of that error, a wrong person can be captured and punished for something he or she has not done or someone can get away from their crimes – like what Director Burgess did. At first, Tom Cruise was pictured as the murderer and he had to go on run. However, when Tom catches Crow, he does not kill him because he gets the confession out of him that he was hired to do what he had done. From this scene, I think the main thing I got out of is that the precrime announcement does not include human variables. People can change their mind at the last minute. Just because they act as if they would going to do something does not mean that they would actually follow through all their plans –just like what Tom Cruise did when he faced Crow. At last, it turned out that the one person who was behind all these – expected murder of Crow and Lively – was Director Burgees. Because the three girls only show the images, people could not tell whether that was one image footage or more. Just watching that with no word explanation, people did not know it was set up. Director Burgees just used the same setting as the first murder attempt so he could not be detected. I think the system is useful for some degree, but I do not think it is completely reliable – especially the evidences are just the image footages from the system. I think in order to be “justified” in punishing someone for precrime, a state needs to use a perfect system with less than 1% of expected errors because someone’s life can be depended on it.

    • pythagoras permalink

      Could a system really be perfect if it had a 0.5% (that is, “less than 1% of expected errors”) error rate? I would have thought that this would be a less than perfect system, even if one argued that it was good enough. There’s also this oddity: Does this mean the system stops 99.5% of the murderers but lets 0.5% get through? Or does it mean that 1 out of every 200 convictions is based on a false positive (and thus involves someone who is innocent)? It probably makes a difference.

  2. Cory Johnson permalink

    Punishing? No. Rehabilitating? Yes. The difference between pre-crime in The Minority Report and actual crime we see today is really not that different. In both, individuals are on deterministic trajectories which if taken to their conclusion will result in the determined action. The difference Is that in the future we have found a way to stop this, and in the film they are, of course, stopped at the last possible second.

    If we accept this hard determinist paradigm that does not recognize a supernatural underpinning of free will, then nothing is truly someone’s “fault.” Punishment should not be viewed as necessary penance for a transgressor, but what it really is—a warning for future offenders. When viewed like this punishment as we know it seems quite difficult to defend as morally permissible. Some may say though, that punishment is form of remediation for the offender, with lengthy prison terms an opportunity to reflect on their actions. Maybe. At this point I would like to present an alternative, what true remediation would look like. Unfortunately I am not an expert in such matters, but I can point to a program I’ve heard of anecdotally. A prison warden cut down an offender’s term by a week for every book they read and reflected on. Maybe that’s the dreamer in me, but that sounds like something better, something that might reform someone from harming society again more adequately than “hard time in the pen.”

    Much of that was quite tangential, yet my core point remains. Even if someone does not actually commit the crime and are stopped by “future police” they were still identical in every way to someone who followed through. If we believe the latter need be punished or rehabilitated then there is no reason that the former should not as well.

    I took this stance in the face of your not-so-subtle prompting, but I think I may have convinced myself. I see two ways to counter my argument. One, deny hard determinism or two, invoke contemporary laws (which have yet to anticipate Dick’s technologies, for some reason…).

    • pythagoras permalink

      I’m really interested in the idea that one might be rehabilitated for something one hasn’t done. There’s certainly one clear sense of the term “rehabilitation” for which this is true. Consider an analogy. Right now, I might have a 95% occluded artery. If nothing is done within 30 days, there is a (let’s say for the purposes of this example) 99% I will suffer a myocardial infarction. However, my cardiologist catches this, rushes me into surgery, and removes the occlusion. In this case, my heart has been rehabilitated because a flaw (if you will) in it has been corrected.

      Perhaps it’s a bit different with something like unpremeditated murder though. Think of poor schlub Howard Marks, whom we see in the first few minutes of the film. When he discovers his partner, Sarah, in flagrante delicto, he reacts. While I agree with (what I take to be) the film’s premise that Howard would have been wrong to kill Sarah and her lover, I wonder what we’d have to do to Howard in order to rehab him. Make him care less about others and his relationships with them? That might be worse than what’s actually done to him. Prevent him from acting violently when confronted with emotionally powerful? That could prevent him from saving people from harm (or even death, provided, I suppose, that it’s not murder).

  3. Cory Johnson permalink

    Max von Sydow in the Exorcist in 1973:

    Same man, ~30 years later, in Minority Report.

    Something fishy is going on here.

    • pythagoras permalink

      That is odd. Certainly he was a young man once:

      Maybe that’s just what happens to you if you’re a Swede who plays a famous Jewish carpenter:

      In fact, MvS is one of my favorite people to watch on screen, so I guess I should be quite happy if he’s found the secret of immortality.

  4. Micah Patten permalink

    This film presents an interesting philosophical idea about both time and actions. The Minority Report places time within a non-linear perspective, which brings forth the question of whether someone is guilty if they are guaranteed to do something in the future. This question must be addressed on the grounds of free-choice. In a world where everything is pre-determined; a fate-driven life, then a government would be justified in arresting and punishing someone based on what they were going to do, because there is no way that it would not have happened if they had not been stopped. However, if this fate was true, then no government would be able to intervene to prevent it, or that would mean that the fate of the individual was to be stopped from that crime. This paradox in a unchangeable fate directs us toward the belief that there is some type of free-choice or free-will within the equation. There may be a series of events that leads an individual to a place where it is very likely that they will kill someone or do harm to another, but until it happens, there is still opportunity for someone to change their mind. This may be the actor or someone else that may be the victim or perhaps a by-stander; all of which could prevent the act from occurring, even if the police allow it to transpire. Punishment, then, would not be justified on someone who has not yet committed the crime. The police force or government would be justified in preventing such an event from taking place and perhaps charge the individual with attempted murder or something of that sort, but there are no grounds for a charge of murder because there is no act, just as a kidnapper is charged with premeditated murder if they planned on killing a hostage but were prevented from doing so. The system displayed on the Minority Report seemed to be extremely accurate as well which would allow for the release of a presumed criminal who could be stopped again and punished more severely if that individual is found to be planning the murder again.

    • pythagoras permalink

      “until it happens, there is still opportunity for someone to change their mind.”

      That’s one of the big questions at stake here. It looks like it’s supposed to work this way: Those who know the future are capable of changing it, provided that they arrive in time to do so. That’s why the Precrime cops can keep a murder from happening. If one couldn’t change the future, then there wouldn’t be much point in having the precogs around! (A complicating factor: The precogs might be useful for the DA’s Office even if the crime couldn’t be stopped, but ignore that for now.) What’s not obvious to me, is that someone who doesn’t have the benefit of the precogs insights can act differently than what the precogs believe. We’re stuck with a pretty strange question: Why think that Howard Marks could do anything other than kill his partner and her lover if he didn’t know that his future contained this event? If we never had the chance to sit down and think through the matter when he was not emotionally traumatized (or at least when the trauma was not over-whelming), then why think he could prevent himself from doing exactly what the precogs saw?

  5. Heather Ireland permalink

    It depends on the state which you live in. In a minimally free state it may be acceptable to punish someone for precrime. In a state which punishes precrime, the citizens who live in that state must give up nearly all freedom and choice to the state. The acceptability of punishment for precrime in a state comes down to the choice between the advantage to society as a whole versus the actual act of injustice. Even looking at one of the taglines we can see that the system is not perfect, “The Future Can Be Seen. Murder Can be Prevented. The Guilty Punished Before the Crime is Committed. The System is Perfect. It’s Never Wrong. Until It Comes After You.” In this system, where precrime is punished, there can never be a trial, there will never be evidence, it all comes down to faith in the system.
    The freedom of choice to commit a crime versus the freedom of the population as a whole is what this comes down to. As in Minority Report, we see that just because the future has an action slated, the person who is meant to commit the crime always has to choose to commit it. By taking away choice, the society allows for future to determine all choice and all choice to be predetermined. The fragility in the balance of choice and of freedom is what precrime comes down to.
    As in Minority Report, there will be flaws. As Dr Hineman stated in reference to the PreCogs, “But occasionally they do disagree…” occasionally the precogs do disagree about what the future holds. Why? Because of human nature and free choice. No system is 100% accurate, so by detaining people based on precrime we cannot be 100% certain that those we arrest or detain will commit those crimes.
    So if the citizens in a state do agree to give up their freedoms for this system then it is justified, however if the citizens do not agree to give up their freedom and the society punishes for precrime, then it is not justified. As John Anderton states, “Except – you know your own future, which means you can change it if you want to. You still have a choice, Lamar. Like I did.”

    • pythagoras permalink

      “So if the citizens in a state do agree to give up their freedoms for this system then it is justified, however if the citizens do not agree to give up their freedom and the society punishes for precrime, then it is not justified.”

      I’m interested in how this works in detail. In some cases, it’s clear, right? If I join a club, I become subject to it’s rules through my voluntary choice. Perhaps I now have to wear a funny hat on Sundays. Who knows? But it’s my call to put myself in this situation.

      It’s less clear under other circumstances though. Does everyone in the DC metro area have to agree to the Precrime program? What if only a small minority (this film is named Minority Report after all!) disagrees? Is it just a matter of majority rule? How large must that majority be? Should those who disagree just move (“If you don’t like it, why don’t you move to Russia!”)? Every place is likely to have some rules which we believe to be illegitimate.

  6. Caroline Martin permalink

    The concept of precrime implies the absence of choice. This idea is very similar to The Matrix’s character of the Oracle. With similar abilities to the Oracle, the “precogs” in Minority Report can predict future murders. However, what if there still existed a choice? After all, towards the end of the film, immediately before John commits a predicted murder, Agatha—the wisest and “most gifted” of the three precrime precogs—yells, “You still have a choice!” This thought is echoed at the end of the film when John says to Director Lamar Burgess, “You still have a choice.” Why is this significant? I propose that the precogs operate in a similar fashion as the Oracle in The Matrix: they can accurately predict a stream of events immediately up to the point of choice. Then we may consider the predicament of premeditated murder. I believe, within the context of the film, arrest on charges of precrime for premeditated murder is easily justified. Explanation for this justification arises when we consider the fact that the choice has already been made before the prediction occurs. Therefore, in the case of premeditated murder, there is no choice for the suspect by the time the murder is about to occur. As long as the specific precrime is identified as premeditated, then it can be justified. Otherwise, the choice has not yet been predicted and therefore not determined. Now to consider the question of whether, in the controversial case of a predicted non-premeditated murder, if the suspect were informed of his supposed crime before it occurs, can he be let go free under the “change of mind?” Perhaps. However, the next question that arises is one of whether or not the knowledge of committing a crime would drive the predicted suspect to an unhealthy mental state. Hypothetically, if you were informed that you would commit murder, how would you respond? The film provides a good example of this. Considering if the person is of normal human convictions, the only path is to seek your own innocence, whether by amending any conflict between yourself and the predicted victim or by proving that the precognition is impossible.

    • pythagoras permalink

      The comparison to The Matrix seems very apt. The Oracle seems to think that we’ve already (somehow!) made the choices we’ll make in life. Neo has chosen to save Trinity even before he speaks to the Architect. But he doesn’t understand his choice until he makes it (and perhaps it takes him even longer than that).

      In Minority Report, it looks like there’s more room for understanding to affect choice. It’s because John understands that Leo didn’t kill Sean that he doesn’t intentionally kill him. Interestingly, though, he can’t avoid the most important aspects of the future which all three precogs saw: John is holding the gun that goes off and kills Leo. There’s no wiggle room here (though perhaps there would have been if there had been a minority report from Angela in this case).

  7. Ben Vowell permalink

    What obviously needs to be addressed here is whether or not the state or the people of the state take a deterministic or free will view of the world around us. In order to believe that pre-crime could be counted as crime, it would need to be believed that the world is a deterministic place. I think it could be argued that in the distant future, we may be able to map out the likely psychological sequence of steps a person might take, given certain inputs from their environment. I do not think we can ever remove the concept of choice from a person’s actions though. Even at the final moments, many people do not know if they will go through with even small events. Additionally, if the world was found to be wholly deterministic, it would only remove blame from the perpetrator of crimes. We could not, as a society, hold somebody fully responsible for crimes which they were predetermined to commit. In conclusion, I come down with the side of the argument that maintains pre-crime would never actually be feasible for humans. However, I could see the possibility of screening people who are more likely to commit crimes based on their genetic make-up and getting them some sort of psychological assistance. Even if someone is born to be a murderer, they could still decide that the possibility of going to jail is not worth the risk of committing a certain murder.

    • pythagoras permalink

      I’m going to take issue (just a little!) with one of your premises here, Ben. The idea of fate is much older than the idea of determinism (at least as it’s understood here). Think of our old buddy Oedipus. The prophecy made before his birth is that he’ll kill his father and marry his mother (begetting, as a result, four children). Oedipus is just as horrified (if not more) by this idea and tries very hard to avoid it. But doing so it exactlywhat leads him to fulfill the prophecy.

      I’ll go out on a limb a little here and say that Sophocles (the author of the play about Oedipus – the myth is much older) didn’t have a deterministic universe in mind. It’s not that anything like a modern deterministic universe hadn’t been conceived of when the play was written (Democritus, Lucipus, and much later Lucretius explored this possibility). But it was a very unusual view, and Sophocles as well as his audience wouldn’t have to assume it to make sense of the play. Rather, I think they would have only needed to think that certain things are fated, that some people will live and die in certain ways, come what may. That leaves the door open to a certain degree of indeterminacy. We might meet our fate (like Oedipus) in one way or another, but meet our fate we will. Or so goes the idea.

  8. Monica Hottle permalink

    I am at an honest conflict with this prompt. I feel like there are pros and cons to this. To start with the most obvious pro: the city was murder-free for six years. With the precogs and the “PreCrime” department, the city was safe and people were able to live without worry; they did not have to roam the streets with the concern of getting shot/killed like how people nowadays have that concern (for example, I worry every time I drive through Prince Georges County in MD). Also punishing for a precrime not only makes it easier for the people, but easier for the police department. They don’t have to stalk down people, they just needed to ask the precogs and know who they’re looking for. However, here’s the ultimate dilemma for me (or, the “big con”): how can you punish someone for a crime that they have not yet committed? Yes, I understand that there are psychics who are able to determine whether or not a crime will be committed, but if the action has not yet been carried out, how can a person be punished? I think of it like a dad hitting his kid, and when the kid asks “Why did you do that?” the father simply responds “Just in case.” So although I see the clear benefit to punishing for precrimes, I also see how it seems really ludicrous to punish someone for something that “they’re going to commit.”

    • pythagoras permalink

      “I am at an honest conflict with this prompt.”

      Me too!

      “how can you punish someone for a crime that they have not yet committed?”

      It’s even worse than that, really. For these are crimes that one never will commit because the Precrime force has intervened (as you point out at the end of your post).

  9. K.Rengan permalink

    It should be obvious that there is no justification for state to punish someone for a pre-crime. For there to be guilt, following a crime, the law requires mens rea, and actus reus; or, the act of committing a crime and the intent to carry out that crime. In the movie we see that the legal system is based off the infallibility of the precogs; “judges” stand by when a ball roles in to view the evidence and decide, without the accused, and without a trial on the perpetrators acts. Both act and intent fall to the precogs. However, in real time there is no crime, and thus no action. Our crime (say if in the future we were going to kill someone), is based off the laws of physics as the conversation between Anderton and Jad involving the ball illustrates. When Jad catches the ball, Anderton notes that the prevention of the ball dropping (metaphor for a crime happening) does not change the fact that it would have dropped anyway; “the fact that you prevented it from happening doesn’t change the fact that it was going to happen.” However, the notion of free will plays no part in Anderton’s ball drop metaphor, and thus cannot accurately explain the circumstances we are in. As Agatha notes before Anderton is about to kill Crow, you can change the events. Thus, our action and intent are thrown into deep suspicion when accused of a crime, because the circumstances of understanding have changed. If we were the ball we could theoretically stop before falling off the ledge, the stream of time does not have to end with a crime –as Anderton illustrates when he does not kill Crow purposefully. Our free will is not determined by the laws of physics but by the level of understanding we can achieve.

  10. Uddit Patel permalink

    A state should never be justified in punishing someone for a precrime. However, there should be a precrime team set up ready to help anyone that will commit a crime. The precrime team should show up to the house as they did, and prevent the crime from happening by letting the person know what prediction has come out. Instead of putting the person in a confinement chamber, the state should be used as prevention means instead of a way to put someone in imprisonment. A state should never justify someone to being punished and a state should only be used to help the person that will commit the crime, or the crime being committed on. The crime has not occurred, and like the Agatha Lively said “you still have a choice, you can choose.” Every person has a choice on what they want to do. Once someone knows the future, or they are going to commit a crime, a person can change that by doing something entirely different. Like seen in Minority Report, precrime can be used to set a person up like Director Lamar Burgess did to John Anderton, and to the John Doe that predicted to kill Agatha’s mother.

    Everyone has a choice on what they will do. If they have not done something yet, they should not be punished for it. There is no proof that they were about to do the event. Like the opening scene of Minority Report, the husband being cheated on could have made a decision to talk to his wife, instead of using the scissors to kill his wife and the man who she was having an affair with. The husband could have made a different decision once the precrime team helped him out. Even though the husband had scissors in his hand, they cannot be used against him. Instead, the precrime team should help him out by talking to him, and talking the wife and the affair man away. Every person’s decision and choice can change from time to time. Sometime they all depend on the consequences that are laid out. John was going to kill because he thought he found the kidnapper of his son but he finally found out he had choice ad he was being set up.

    A crime that did not happen should not be punishable at all. Instead these states should be used as a means to help the victim and the person that is on the ball as the killer. A state should only be used as preventing crime but not as a means to punishing the people on the projection. These people have no means to clearing their name and proving their innocence. Even with a crime, a person can prove their innocence and carried out their choice. However, in a precrime even though the projections are accurate, they can be changed by the individual just with the precrime teams help. The projections are only projections and not actual choices made out by the individual. The individual has no way in carrying out his innocence, and that he was not going to do what was projected.

  11. No. Despite the ramifications which accompany the execution of crimes, as the film is quick to point out, cognizance of the crime allows for the ability to change the outcome. Each person has the choice to change their mind and not commit the crime, at the last second. Even the precog, Agatha, is able to discern this when John is about to kill Leo Crow, telling John that he still has a choice. And, despite what the precogs had seen, John did not kill Crow. This is contrary to what the agents and the precogs’ techs state, that Agatha and the twins only see what will happen, and that they are never wrong. The idea of precrime convictions is beautifully appealing, but as the film shows us, the number of factors which are required to prosecute each case, from the investigator’s interpretations, to the precogs’ lack of continuity without Agatha, doesn’t allow for precrime convictions to be valid. Despite the number of crimes this could potentially prevent, the fact remains that the lack of moral consideration, the flaws in the system, and the realization that this method generally removes any idea of self-freedom and free-will, effectively bringing to life every dystopian nightmare we’ve ever had. By convicting people with no review and without them actually committing the crime, loopholes to knowingly prosecute innocent people as well as the unintentional (and apparently well-guided) conviction of innocent people is highly possible. Like the film shows, the cases without Agatha’s precog record (which were more than expected) were probably false convictions, as the person may have changed their mind and done something differently. This multitude of evidence against the use of precrime should urge us to consider the ramifications of using such technology. Yes, the system could potentially stop crimes before they happen, but, beyond the flaws of the system, effectively prevents the execution of free will. Without the ability for humans to operate freely in society we effectively become automatons, the victims of Orwell’s dystopian nightmare. Removing the ability for humans to make choices slows societal process, prevents creativity, and gives us no desire to advance ourselves in society.

  12. Theodore Kruczek permalink

    This is first very specific to the state itself and its justice system. What is the purpose of the justice system? Referencing the United States justice system, since it was the focus of the movie, the intent is to protect society from things we deem disruptive, like murder. This is why we have smaller punishments for crimes of passion, which are unlikely to be repeated, compared to repeat crimes, that we punish more severely (3rd felony convictions for example).

    The fundamental problem with precrime is that you can alter the crime be making the perpetrator aware of their future actions.This is exactly what happens to Mr. Anderton and then his boss at the end of the movie. If we can alter the future, we can never truly know what will happen and then, under our justice system, cannot actually protect society without potentially hurting it at the same time (innocent arrests).

    If there was a way to examine precrime with absolute certainty, then we could begin trying to mitigate it, but this just leads to the next problem of what the justice system is really trying to accomplish. If I have a murderer and I place him in prison and rehabilitate him into a better person, then society can flourish. If, however, he has never actually committed the crime, then it should be much easier to rehabilitate him and then there would be no reason to imprison him in a vegetable like state as in the movie.

    I think if justice systems continued focusing on rehabilitating future offenders rather than simply holding them in a coma like state, then there would be more of an argument for why precrime is good (assuming it is absolute certainty). As the movie presented it however, it is clearly a bad idea.

  13. After watching John attempt to clarify his innocence, the question of whether or not a state could ever justify punishing someone for precrime has become sort of ambiguous. Ultimately, I believe that a state could use precrime to punish people if they are caught immediately before committing their crime so that live evidence of intentions to murder could be recorded. If someone was to be punished for a precrime way before they were to murder their victim it could raise questions of whether or not the precogs all saw the situation in the same manner; which is why John was set up and falsely accused of precrime in the first place. If there was a way to figure out how to publish all of the minority reports so that everyone could see how often the precogs misread one another and certain stories, then certain facts and data could be gathered in order to come up with a better system in order to prevent the innocent from being thrown in prison. I think the idea of stopping crime came along with the best intentions because it seems to be a better solution to prevent crimes from happening in the first place in order to save lives, but there needs to be boundaries so that the state does not lose innocent lives in prison. These factors are what lead me to believe that the state could be justified in punishing people for precrime as long as they catch the murderer right before they commit the crime so that the intentions of murder and evidence of planned harm are provided for backup and proof of planned murder. I believe that if the state were to somehow come up with a way to follow the murder until the very last second and still stop them in time before the crime occurs that the system would be more trustworthy.

  14. Matthew Drake permalink

    The prompt question is whether a state would ever justify precrime? But the even larger question I see going on is whether or not you can arrest someone for committing a crime they haven’t committed. Sure, they evidence, for the most part, shows that it was inevitable, but aren’t there exceptions to every rule? I do not believe that precrime should exist.

    There is a flaw in every system known to mankind, like wartime strategy, nuclear deterrence, religion, fashion, etc. The entire film of Minority Report plays off of the flaw. John (Tom Cruise) is trying to find the one PreCog prediction that is different from the others, known as a “minority report.” These conflicting predictions could possibly put an innocent man, or woman, in the prison system, which in this film is not very pleasant. With this possibility, I highly doubt that any state, regardless of its decrease in crime rate, would ever justify arresting a person based on a vision given to them by the offspring of a drug addict.

    The justice system currently in place now isn’t totally perfect, and always has the potential to put innocent people behind bars. But, it is accepted because citizens vote on whether or not a person is guilty. The public has a role to play in the decision. With Precrime, there is no public interaction. The people are to place their confidence in three supernatural beings, much like religion. They put faith into something because they believe that it helps them. Precrime reduced murder by 90%. But of those considered guilty, how many were actually going to do it? When there are conflicting views, and the minority is silenced, then sometimes we have a story that may sound true, but be not true at all.

    You cannot prove something that hasn’t happened yet. Sure, there is the idea of predetermined harmony and “God’s Plan”, but these are just theories; ideas that could possibly happen but are not set into stone. The future can always be altered or changed. Not only that, but with the PreCogs, there could always be a mistake. No being is perfect, regardless of popular belief. And for this reason PreCrime should not exist, nor can it be justified.

  15. Shelby permalink

    In the American criminal justice system, the components of a crime, typically, involve the intention, mens rea, and the action, actus reus. These two go hand in hand; the mens rea is the mental aspect of the crime. In criminal law, the mens rea may assist in determining the level of crime (for example, varying degrees of murder) but it is never the only element in determining guilt to a crime. The United States could not implement this system as long as the Constitution exists and we still strongly defend our right to due process. The Minority Report uses the mens rea alone as a criminal act by assuming that we do not have the ultimate choice. When Anderton and Director Burgess face off at the end of the film Anderton explains the conundrum: If Burgess goes through with the act then he proves that Precrime works and that there is no choice, but if he does not shoot Anderton then he proves that we do have a choice when faced with the future. Throughout Agatha’s kidnapping, she urges to Anderton that he does have a choice. This is an interesting idea about the free will paradox that relates to the Matrix, when the Oracle tells Neo not worry about the vase, and in response to what she said he turns and knocks over the vase. In The Minority Report it searches for an answer of the will of people when faced with the knowledge of their future how will they react. In this film, it takes a very optimistic view of our will ending with Precrime as a failure because Burgess did not follow through with the predicted action. It also says that a state would never be justified in finding anyone guilty of a crime without action. This view, that we are freer with the choice to commit a crime (even if some do not go prosecuted), than we are with Precrime existing reading the future and punishing people for something they never did.

  16. ricardochavez permalink

    The ultimate thing I see with Minority Reports’ answer for criminals who are convicted of pre-crime is the way they are handled. Ultimately, they are almost incarcerated in just a different manner by mentally keeping them locked down. In the end, the problem is solved because crime has been mitigated, but that person is still treated almost as a pseudo-prisoner. Rightly justified and proven through no crime in six years, the system seems to work, however hypothetically the “possibility” of the system being wrong will hold back its implementation. Of course there is always the small dicey chance of hope that a pre-criminal could have sadly knew about his future and was not cognizant enough to change it. Obviously in the movie, the ultimate problem is Anderton’s ability to find out that he will be incarcerated soon and then runs wild, even stealing a pre-cog. That’s another problem I see, the precogs. I feel no matter how much guarantee and assurance of their conviction in a future crime, no human population will accept the fact that they are almost in control of everyone’s life. One day you wake up and are excited to go to Disneyland with your family, and then the cops show up and arrest you is an image really hard to fathom. The collateral mental damage I see in the system is tough to deal with. Additionally, since we are a very reactive population, we will never see a criminal with such sore eyes unless we actually saw or knew what they did. The whole criminal action is what makes people feel they should be justly incarcerated, but a “future-crime” just doesn’t sit right, it’s confusing. If maybe society can find a way to alter the course of action leading up to a crime where it never occurs, then that would be the ultimate way of mitigating crime. Nonetheless still effective, if there was never a possibility that someone can try to adjust their future and just wreak havoc on society or a police force like Anderton did, that it would be a great system. However, I just don’t see a population being happy with three people who can see the future controlling the justice system in a way, no matter how effective it was.

  17. J. Lucky permalink

    It doesn’t seem that any government would be justified in punishing people for precrimes even if it were a flawless system. The main issue being that even if the person is going to do it, he hasn’t done it yet and therefore has not committed an offense. That is not to say that it should not be prevented if possible; it should be prevented even with a level of violence if necessary but not punished. As the movie shows. most crimes (murder anyways) were committed as act of overwhelming passion rather than planned. It is reasonable to believe then that these actors are not necessarily inclined to violent and murderous dispositions but rather are simply being overwhelmed by their emotion during the situation at hand. If they were stopped it is most likely that they would quickly realize their mistake and correct their thinking. Like throwing a bucket of cold water on a sleeping man, the actor will be instantly recalled to his senses and realize his error in judgment.

    Thus my suggestion if such a system could be created is to use to prevent crime but take into consideration the past actions of the offender. If they have been prevented multiple times or have a variety of other offenses then they may need to be rehabilitated or medically treated. However, if the offender has no prior offenses and the prevented crime is obviously one of passion then while it might be wise to keep an eye on him for some time, he should not otherwise be punished.

  18. Seth Rodgers permalink

    The legitimacy of precrime punishment raises three questions in my mind:
    1. How reliable is the predictive technology? What is the chance of error?
    2. Assuming the predictive technology is flawless, if a precriminal is arrested, how would their punishment be different from a conventional criminal’s?
    3. How effectively can predicted crimes be prevented given existing law enforcement?

    Concerning the first question, I believe the technology should be scientifically tested to determine its level of accuracy in predicting future events. Then, the same process should be applied to a court of law, perhaps by using staged test cases as a means of assessing the reliability of a trial’s outcome. So long as the predictive technology boasts a level of certainty equal or higher to a court of law, it seems perfectly ethical to use in convicting would-be-criminals.

    Which leads us to the second question: should this novel breed of future crimes be dealt with differently when it comes to determining a sentence? First, I think we need to explore the nature and purpose of punishment. In my mind, punishment’s goal is two pronged: deterrence and rehabilitation. Given the fact that 52% of released prisoners return to jail in the U.S. (, I would venture to say that conventional punishment in rather ineffective at rehabilitating criminals.

    If we assume perfect deterrence of predicted crimes in response to my third question, then the preventative need for conventional punishment becomes a moot point, making it altogether obsolete. However, if law enforcement struggles to prevent all predicted crimes, then there is still a need to motivate people against trying to commit crimes in the first place and the threat of conventional punishment remains useful.

    To conclude, to justify using conventional punishment against precriminals, two conditions must be met: the predictive technology must be comparatively reliable, and the deterrence of predicted crimes must be less than perfect. In any case, effective rehabilitation should (in my humble opinion) be used to treat any arrested precriminal, and criminal for that matter.

  19. Taylor Warren permalink

    In short, with society and government the way it is currently, I say no. In a country like America, the government might want to implement such measures (if the technology was available and foolproof) but the American people would never let something like this get put into law. Our ideals of life, liberty, and freedom are too important. Now, would a state EVER be justified? Yes, possibly. In a state where there is an absolute monarch or some kind of dictatorship, I can easily see this as a reality—to prosecute people and eliminate them for crimes they haven’t committed yet, just thought of committing. This movie (one of my favorites) reminds me so much of George Orwell’s “1984” wherein the government controls everything. The citizens are ignorant to the government’s control and power, and live like robots. Everything is regulated, watched, organized, and carefully planned out so the citizens have no direction or control over their own lives—choices do not exist. History is written and re-written over and over again, so that they state has absolutely no roots or ties that people can remember/connect with. Back to the movie, it seems that this would only be possible if a state had no say in its government policies of justice and/or punishment for crimes. Human rights are too precious to us right now… we crave due process and the protection the law gives us. The idea of preventing crime through precrime is an interesting idea and could be valuable if it could be regulated and used as security measures, but not to punish people for something they could change their minds about later.

  20. John Yang permalink

    In resolving the moral dilemma of whether a state would be justified in punishing individuals for precrime, assumptions must first be laid out. Within the parameters of Minority Report’s Precrime system, precogs predict murders, both of the premeditated nature and crimes of passion. They also experience “echo” effects and don’t envision the images perfectly, meaning that their visions, while still extremely valuable, are imperfect in nature. For a precrime unit to be truly successful, there would need to be painstaking measures taken in order to prevent incarceration of innocent individuals or manipulation of the system. Oversight would need to be exceedingly extensive, primarily with regards to the details involved in “scrubbing” the precognitive images and with the processing of “echos.” The precrime unit would have to be run multilaterally in addition to thorough oversight, as a centralized director, like Director Lamar Burgess, could potentially take advantage of their position and deceive those involved in preventing murders of their own actions, particularly the ones sanctioned by them, as the precogs can only ever see who committed the actual action but not the leaders behind the scenes giving orders. With all of these factors taken into consideration, in addition to the variable of the potential for perpetrators to make their own, new choice when having the knowledge of their future crimes of passion (as opposed to premeditated murderers, who make their decision well ahead of their crime and obviously will not be swayed by the knowledge that they will eventually commit murder in the future), a state can never be justified in punishing individuals for precrime. Too many variables muddy the waters of justice (at least within the confines of Minority Report’s precrime universe), and too much is left to chance and doubt, which, however small, can disrupt the core integrity of the justice system. And when such a system is far too vulnerable to being taken advantage of, like the precrime unit in Minority Report, the state is not just in taking future crimes into its jurisdiction, especially when these crimes are dealt with the way they are in the film—being placed into a coma for life.

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