You Are Being Watched: How Steven Spielberg Predicted Advertising Messages in ‘Minority Report’

We are being watched and recorded everywhere we go. We search for a particular item on our smartphone and boom, we start receiving advertisements to buy more. The future as seen in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report has already have become common in our lives. Great science-fiction movies reflect our current world and speculate on what may come. And Steven Spielberg has directed some of the biggest sci-fi films of all time.

Steven Spielberg clasping his hands in front of him on stage.
Steven Spielberg | CRAIG SJODIN via Getty Images

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’ anticipated the far reaches of mass media

In 2002, Steven Spielberg adapted a short story by Philip K. Dick and pushed it into the near future of 2054. PreCrime is a police department that apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge from three psychics. Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, the head of the program, who is pre-accused of committing a murder and goes on the run.

Almost 20 years after the release of the Minority Report, the right to privacy has diminished even more.  Anderton is confronted by personal advertisements from Lexus, Guinness, and American Express the minute he enters a metro station, and his retinas are scanned by computers. When he goes shopping at the Gap, the virtual representative offers specific suggestions based on his previous purchases. Are the advertisements insincere? Does he need to buy everything offered to him?

Predicting a future society, according to Steven Spielberg

Spielberg consulted with several scientists while creating the blueprint for Minority Report. He wanted to show a plausible future extrapolated from what was available in 2002. The technological designs have proven to be prescient, especially in the world of advertisement.

The movie explores the disappearance of privacy for the promise of security and convenience. We live in a surveillance state. GPS in our smartphones gives us away, where we drive, and what we buy. What a person said many years ago can come back to haunt them, including loss of employment.

Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg smiling at the cameras at the premiere of 'Minority Report'
Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg | Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

‘Minority Report’ explores free will vs determinism

Minority Report examines the question of free will against determinism. Could what takes place in Minority Report really happen in the future? Is our future set or can free will alter it? Are we allowed to make a choice? Or has it been predetermined? As Max von Sydow’s character Lamar Burgess says, “We don’t choose the things we believe in; they choose us.”

Minority Report shows us how a surveillance state can have the power to control its citizens. It becomes a moral question. How much control do we have over what we see? Are politics and advertisements influencing what we do and feel? Are we susceptible to making impulse purchases? We still have the ability to unplug. Minority Report ends on a quiet and safe note with the main characters in isolated homes, free of electronic surveillance.

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