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. It was made into a popular film in 2002.

The story looks at 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 touches on the danger of a powerful post-war military during peacetime, the main theme not revisited by the film (see below).

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



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, Dick's version of Precrime does not deal solely with cases of murder, but all crimes. as John Anderton, the founder of Precrime states, "Precrime has cut down felonies by ninety-nine and decimal point eight percent."

The system of predicting the future in reports is carried out by three mutants known as "precogs" because of their precognitive abilities which allow them to 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.

The Precogs

Precogs are created by identifying the talent within a "subject" and cultivating 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 in preventing murders and is then passed on to other agencies.

A Minority Report

Each of the three precogs generates its own report or prediction. The reports of all the precogs are analyzed by a computer and, if these reports differ from one another, the computer identifies the two reports with the greatest overlap and produces a "majority report," taking this as the accurate prediction of the future. But the existence of majority reports implies the existence of a "minority report." In the story, Precrime Police Commissioner John A. Anderton believes that the prediction that he will commit a murder has been generated as a majority report. He sets out to find the minority report, which would give him an alternate future. However, as Anderton finds out, sometimes all three reports differ quite significantly, and there may be no majority report, even though two reports may have had enough in common for the computer to link them as such. In the storyline, all of the reports about Anderton differ because they predict events occurring sequentially, and thus turn out to each be minority reports. Anderton's situation is explained to be unique because he, as Police Commissioner, received notice of the precogs' predictions, allowing him to change his mind and invalidate earlier precog predictions.

Multiple Time Paths

The existence of three apparent minority reports suggests the possibility of three future time paths, all existing simultaneously, any of which an individual could choose to follow or be sent along following an enticement (as in Anderton's being told he was going to murder an unknown man). In this way, the time-paths overlap, and the future of one is able to affect the past of another. It is in this way that the story weaves a complicated web of crossing time paths and makes a linear journey for Anderton harder to identify. It is the theory of multiple-futures which allows the precogs of precrime to be of benefit, because if only one time-path existed, the predictions of the precogs would be worthless, since no possibility would exist of altering the future. Precrime is based on the notion that once one unpleasant future pathway is identified, an alternative, better one can be created with the arrest of the intended perpetrator.


Differences between short story and film

  • The story is set in New York City, while the film used the backdrop of Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia.
  • Precrime is a government branch in the story and a Police department in the movie.
  • In the story, John Anderton is a 50-year old balding, out-of-shape police officer who created Precrime, while in the movie Anderton is in his late 30s, handsome, athletic, with a full head of hair and joined Precrime after his son's kidnapping.
  • The original Anderton is older than his wife Lisa, while the adaptation Anderton has the same age of Lara, who left him because he reminded her of her son.
  • The precogs were originally named Mike, Donna, and Jerry, and were deformed and mentally impaired. In the adaptation, they are called Agatha, Dashiell and Arthur — after crime writers Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Arthur Conan Doyle — children of drug addicts whose mutations led them to dream of future murders, which are captured by machines. They are "deified" by the Precrime officers, and are implied to be intelligent (Agatha guides Anderton successfully through the streets and the trio are seen reading large piles of books at the end of the film). In the end of the movie they retire to a rural cottage where they continue their lives in freedom and peace.
  • In the story, Anderton exchanges his identity with a new ID and documents; in the movie, Anderton has to go through an eye transplant for the same.
  • In the story, Anderton's future victim is a General Leopold Kaplan, who wants to discredit Precrime in order to get more military financing back. At the end of the story, Anderton ends up killing him to prevent the destruction of Precrime. In the movie, Anderton is supposed to kill someone named Leo Crow, but later finds out Crow is just part of a set up, to prevent Anderton from discovering a different murder his superior, Lamar Burgess, committed years ago. At the end of the film, Anderton confronts Burgess, who commits suicide and sends Precrime into oblivion.
  • In the story, Anderton goes after the precogs to hear their "minority reports". In the movie, Anderton kidnaps a precog in order to discover his own "minority report" and extract the information for a mysterious crime.
  • The story ends with Anderton and Lisa moving to a space colony after Kaplan's murder. The movie finishes with the couple reunited after the conspiracy's resolution, expecting their second child.

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