“The Minority Report” was originally published in Fantastic Universe in January 1956. It can now be found in Minority Report and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick on pp. 71–102.
I – John Anderton meets with Ed Witwer to discuss the procedures of Precrime. Witwer is set to be Anderton’s assistant and possible successor. They talk about the success of Precrime. Since it was established there has been only one murder. However, none of the people in the detention camps are actually guilty of murder. Three precogs are used to predict who will commit crimes, allowing the police to intercept them before the crime takes place. From the state’s perspective they are guilty, but none of them feel that they are guilty. This is the moral dilemma. Going through the cards, listing the names of the potential criminals identified by the precogs, Anderton notices his name and hides the card into his pocket.
II – Anderton assumes that he will be killing Witwer to prevent him from moving to take over his position. More likely in his view is that he is being framed. Soon a duplicate report will appear in the Army and expose him. That could not be stopped. Anderton discusses the situation with his wife Lisa, although he suspects Lisa as a possible suspect in the effort to frame him. The other suspect is Witwer because once he is sent to a detention camp, Precrime will fall under his authority. Looking at the card, Lisa realizes that Witwer is not the one Anderton will kill. It is a man neither has heard of , Leopold Kaplan.
III – At home, Anderton regrets telling Lisa about the card, who may pass on the information to Witwer. An intruder enters his room, leading him to a car and a building. He is introduced to former general Leopold Kaplan. Anderton tells him that he is certain the card was faked to help Witwer seize control of the police. In fact, he has already stepped up as acting commissioner. The radio broadcasts a warning to the public about the fugitive criminal John Anderston. He realizes that Lisa must have gone directly to Witwer and they are working in concert.
IV – As they drive Anderton to the police state, Kaplan’s men discuss the dilemma. If he does not go to the detention camp for the intention to kill Kaplan, it would prove Precrime, his life’s work, was wrong and the entire system would breakdown. The system requires that he goes to the detention camp. A car accident allows Anderton to escape. He is intercepted by a fat man named Fleming. He suggests that Anderton is being framed and says he is from a police watchdog group. He gives him a packet, including false identification.
V – The alias given to him by Fleming turns Anderton into Ernest Temple, an electrician. The packet included his new identification, money, and a message saying “the existence of a majority implies a corresponding minority.” He goes to a hotel room and puts a quarter into the bed to activate it. He then listens to the radio to follow the excitement he has caused. The report includes a detailed description of how Precrime works with information given by acting-Commissioner Witwer. He explains how Precrime relies on three precogs and requires two corresponding reports (discarding one “minority report”). The precogs actually see various multiple futures, but since it is unlikely that two precogs will see two identical false reports, the majority report will always be correct. Anderton decides he must see the “minority report” for himself.
VI – Anderton calls Page in the office, asking for access to the reports. Page reluctantly agrees. A few hours later, Anderton is led into Precrime and begins accessing the tape-reels holing the raw data from the precogs. The minority report, from “Jerry,” shows him deciding not to kill Kaplan. Because he was informed he would commit a murder, Anderton could change his mind, unlike other potential murders that Precrime captured. He knows this is futile information. Witwer will use the majority report to get rid of Anderton regardless of the information in the minority report. Lisa arrives and leads him to a ship on the roof so he can make an escape.
VII – Lisa hears about the minority report and wonders how many are in jail who should not be. Anderton explains that only people in a position to see the card can change their fate. Lisa suggests that Kaplan will protect him, but tells Anderton that he would have committed the crime. The majority report was not fake and Witwer was not trying to frame him. Furthermore, to save Precrime, Anderton will need to turn himself in. Fleming, who had earlier stowed away on the ship, attacks Lisa. Anderton fights him off and finds that he is an army major and working for Kaplan, revealing that Kaplan wants to see Precrime dismantled. Anderton contacts Witwer for a meeting.
VIII – Andertson explains what he learned to Witwer, specifically about Kaplan’s role in a conspiracy to take down Precrime. In the original timeline, Anderton would try to stop him leading to his murder of Kaplan. Learning that he would do so, changed the timeline, creating the second (minority) report. He concludes that he must save Precrime by showing the “majority” report to be true. This can only be done by killing Kaplan.
IX – At an Army rally, Kaplan prepares to celebrate the end of Precrime. By being seen publically together at the rally, enough doubt will be cast on the program to lead the Senate to shut it down. Kaplan explains more of his view. There can never be absolute knowledge of the future, so all the “criminals” in detention should be freed. During his speech to the public, Anderton kills Kaplan with a weapon he smuggled in.
X – Lisa, John Anderton and Witwer debrief. Anderston knows he will need to be exiled to another planet, but Precrime will live on under Witwer’s leadership. Anderton explaisn why he had to kill Kaplan. There were three minority reports. Two agreed that Andertson would kill Kaplan, but disagreed on the circumstances, so they appeared to be a majority, but it was only a majority in outcome. Each precog was able to look farther into the future. The first saw Anderton kill Kaplan to defend Precrime. The second responded to Anderton’s realization that he would, allowing him to avoid it. The final precog saw that the end result of Anderton discovering Kaplan’s plans. Fortunately for Precrime this is a unique situation that can only happen to the commissioner.
“The Minority Report” is truly a wonderful story. It has an elegant device that is both compelling and relevant to our times, and a satisfying conclusion that does not dodge the hard question at the end. As anyone who saw the film Minority Report knows, there are huge differences, but the largest is in the ending. In the film Anderton helps bring down Precrime in the end. The movie Anderton becomes a champion for civil liberties and rights of defendants. The story version of Anderton is more realistic. He worked his life to develop Precrime. It is his major contribution. He is proud that he was one of the few to find a socially-beneficial usage for precogs while others were content to just play with predicting the lottery. The story version of Anderton is willing to go to prison or exile to ensure the survival of what he believes is a superior system of criminal justice, superior because it eliminates the need for a victim. This is not to say that Dick is unsympathetic to the civil liberty issues brought up by the idea of Precrime. We could even say that in Dick’s story the true hero is Kaplan. Kaplan, although self-interested to a degree, has genuine moral concerns about Precrime. He fails in his effort to bring it down thanks to the united power of the police. Anderton may be the focus of the story, but he is the major defender of an odious system. This is where the movie went wrong. (I am not trying to deny the power of that film as an analysis of critical civil liberty issues; I only question its honesty by creating a heroic police officer.)
While we do not have precogs we have the infrastructure within the surveillance state for Precrime already. People can be investigated for what they look for on the Internet, whether they have a serious effort to commit a crime or not. That case (I will post below) where a police officer fantasized about cannibalism and was arrested is a good example of how our own version of Precrime works. Every time there is a mass murder, we scour the Internet retrospectively for clues to the perpetrators mental state. Invariable we find evidence that he was mentally unstable or planning a crime. How long before we start to try to piece these together to prevent atrocities? We also know that joining certain groups, following certain Web sites, and making phone calls to certain people is a cause for suspicion. We do not require precogs to start our own Precrime departments. We only require the political will to do so. Thankfully that is still lacking in most countries.
Only the brutal logic of a police department would find that living in a detention center was preferable to jail. The distinction they make is bureaucratic, and not moral. This is how they justify it to the people that they are not committing a crime by incarcerating people who have done nothing wrong.
Film version trailer