Almost everyday, Silicon Valley launches companies that strive to change the world with new technologies. Autonomous cars, for instance, similar to those featured in the 2004 movie I, Robot, are currently in the testing phase. Martin Cooper, who invented the first cell phone, has stated that the handheld communicators used by the members of the Enterprise on Star Trek inspired his invention. Another example of film and television’s influence on real-world technology is with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, Dr. Heywood Floyd, while en route to a space station, uses videoconferencing to wish happy birthday to his daughter. History is replete with such instances where the visionary creations in cinema inspired real-life inventions whose life-changing capacity in turn cements the legacies of these films.
When Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Minority Report hit theaters in 2002, audiences were blown away by the vision of 2054 Washington D.C and the technology presented throughout. In the film, we see Tom Cruise’s Chief John Anderton drive around the city in an autonomous Lexus 2054 that plays music based on his mood and has a biometric security system. Through the power of the Internet of Things, a Silicon Valley buzzword, these additions to our cars could be in stores soon. In Minority Report, an unseen power takes control of Anderton’s car to take him to the police station so that he can be arrested for the future murder, but thanks to both the operating system and the autonomy of the car, Anderton is able to prevent the hack from happening, a scenario prophetic of the hacking concern for the mass production of autonomous automobiles today. Last year, two security researchers proved that they could hack a Jeep Cherokee simply through their Internet services, taking control of the steering, transmissions and brakes. If these vulnerabilities are fixed, a future in which we no longer have to drive ourselves might be here sooner than 2054.
Another captivating technology is the multi-touch interfaces that Anderton and his fellow PreCrime officers use to research and solve the crimes presented by the “Precogs” in the future. The abilities to pull up a screen, tap on it, increase or shrink it with just the flick of a finger, or simply throwing that screen with a gesture were present in technologies in development at the time, but it was not until five years later that multi-touch would hit the mainstream with the reveal and prevalence of the iPhone and several years later the iPad. And thanks to the recent increased accessibility of virtual and augmented reality, the multi-touch interfaces have reached a whole new dimensions, similar to what we are seeing with Pokemon Go now, Spielberg and Dick’s futuristic vision is no longer imagination, but our reality.
Around midway through the movie, we see a prediction of the personalization of advertising that we see today in our emails and Internet browsers. Anderton needs to avoid surveillance detection but in this futuristic society, retina scans are everywhere and with this technology comes advertising tailored to the consumer’s needs. Because the scans are able to detect his stress level, an American Express ad plays and tells him that “It looks like you need an escape, and Blue can take you there.” Another advertisement addresses Anderton by name, which is exactly what he does not want while trying to avoid detection. In our real world, we are already seeing the beginning iterations of similar technology. Through the cache of internet data, when we are on a retail store front, we will see products that we looked at show up on other sites to convince us to purchase the items. Sometimes this is taken a step further. For example, on Facebook, a user who updates his or her relationship status to “engaged” will be flooded with Facebook ads for wedding photographers, venues, dresses and many other vendors. As the Technoskepic states, “Facebook pushes you to share as much as possible, because unlimited sharing by users is the necessary prerequisite for unlimited data harvesting and turbocharged ad revenue for Facebook.” This kind of data that we provide could soon be sold to other forms of advertising. NEC in Japan has produced billboards that determine if someone is male or female and their estimated age, and then will show an ad based on their demographic. It appears that soon we could be hearing advertising speaking specifically to us. With the more personal data that we provide to the Internet, the future could be bringing will have flavor water targeted specific to our taste buds or maybe the perfume sprayed that is meant just for us. Because we “liked” the Beatles on Facebook, we could hear “all you need is love” as we walk by a bus advert for Valentine’s Day while someone else walking by the same ad, could hear another love song. Brands are eager to buy this data from Facebook and other Internet sites to understand the consumers to a whole new dimension.
Lots of the technologies created for Minority Report have inspired innovators and creators in Silicon Valley and beyond to bring them to real life. When publications and news outlets discuss these emerging technologies, Minority Report is cited as the pop culture reference to the public, which shows the legacy and impact that this film has had in the zeitgeist. Who knows which science fiction film will shape our future?