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Face Off: Futuristic Societies - Minority Report vs. Demolition Man

03.20.2014by: Dave Davis
Last week's Face-Off column was a vehicular showdown, and the race barely begun. Most of you agreed that the iconic time-traveling DeLorean from the BACK TO THE FUTURE series left James Bond's famous gadget-packed Aston Martin in the dust.

This weekend's young-adult adaptation DIVERGENT is set in a futuristic society where people are divided into factions based on their personalities. For this week's Face Off column, let's take a good look at the futuristic societies presented in a couple of well-known sci-fi/action movies, MINORITY REPORT and DEMOLITION MAN.
CITY
Washington DC circa 2054
San Angeles (the post-quake merging of San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara) circa 2032
BAD NEIGHBORHOOD
The Sprawl, a run-down district where psychoactive drugs and illegal eye transplants can be acquired
"Wasteland", the subterranean ruins of the old city where social outcasts, fresh ratburgers and classic muscle cars can be found
CRIME PREVENTION METHODS
Using the psychic gifts of three clairvoyants (and a nifty motion-manipulated holographic computer interface), the PreCrime enforcement program predicts murders and arrests the perpetrators before their offense occurs, keeping the city murder-free for six years
Under the plan of seemingly benevolent Dr. Raymond Cocteau, San Angeles has become a nearly crime-free utopia. All citizens are implanted with tracking chips, politeness is enforced, anything "bad for you" (physical sex, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, contact sports, salt, uneducational toys, etc.) have been made illegal, and the city has been free of MDK (MurderDeathKill) for 16 years

Additionally, cryogenically frozen prisoners are "rehabilitated" during hibernation with programming to make them productive members of society upon release
LAWBREAKERS
Anyone who might commit premeditated murder or a crime of passion

Unlicensed medical providers

Purveyors of black market cyber-fantasies
Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary) and the "Scraps", the marginalized citizens who can't or won't conform to the new structured society

Homicidal lunatic Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), released from cryoprison to eliminate Friendly and the city's undesirable elements
TOP COPS
John Anderton (Tom Cruise), captain of the PreCrime police force -- until he is accused of committing an impending murder and becomes a fugitive to try and clear his name
John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a convicted sergeant from the "vulgar 20th century" released from cryoprison to deal with Phoenix

Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock), a nostalgia-obsessed SAPD officer itching to fight some real crime
POLICE EQUIPMENT
-remote retina-scanning robot spiders

-"sick sticks" (batons that cause immediate involuntary vomiting)

-concussion guns, which fire concentrated bursts of air

-personal jet packs

-halo devices that force criminals into a permanent sleep state for incarceration
-glow-rods, which can render people unconscious

-portable information terminals
COOL TRANSPORTATION
An eco-friendly high-speed maglev system of automated cars that can travel sideways and vertically
Self-driving vehicles that run on "capacitance gel", and are equipped with auto-inflating tires and life-saving secure-foam
CONSUMERISM
A citywide optical recognition system directs personalized advertising at pedestrians on building-size electronic billboards
The most popular radio station in town plays nothing but classic "mini-tunes", also known as commercials

The only dining choice is Taco Bell (or Pizza Hut in some non-US releases of the film), the sole surviving restaurant of the Franchise Wars
TOILET TIME
Director Steven Spielberg's designer team came up with an analytical toilet that would make dietary recommendations, but the concept was unused in the final film
Cleaning up after a bowel movement requires use of the three seashells (or a whole bunch of profanity fines)
PLAUSIBILITY
Psychic visions probably won't be leading to any arrests in our lifetime, but crime prediction algorithm software is something that could become common in major cities within the near future.

Although they could use refining, multi-touch and motion-tracking interfaces like the movie's PreCrime video wall are now commonplace on handheld devices and peripherals like the Xbox's Kinect.

Retina scanners are in development for public security uses, and the military is developing robotic reconnaissance spiders. Augmented/virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift are on the way, and facial-recognition or identity-tag advertising could be produced by various tech companies within the next few years (websites already present specific ads based on your personal browsing history).

The movie's electronic newspapers probably won't ever be a reality, but most people can currently get immediate news updates via smartphones and tablets.
In the movie's fictional history, Arnold Schwarzenegger had been voted President of the United States after the 61st Amendment allowed a non-US citizen to run for the office. A decade after DEMOLITION MAN hit theaters, Schwarzenegger was voted Governor of California and served two terms. A recent New York Times article claimed he was considering an attempt to challenge the constitutional rules and mount a possible run for presidency in the future.

The idea of all citizens willfully allowing a health-monitoring GPS chip to be implanted in themselves would never happen, but the technology for such an implant is practically a reality. And most people's locations can already be tracked via cellphones, which are carried by the vast majority of adults.

We're not quite at enforced joy-joy feelings and enhanced calm, but there's definitely more of an atmosphere (some would claim oppressive) of political correctness today. Virtual sex? Probably someday reasonably soon.

And while Taco Bell would be unlikely to become the omnipresent victor, the concept of "Franchise Wars" isn't too difficult to imagine when megacorporations are already battling for customers and profits (nearly every major brand now falls under the umbrella of just a few gigantic companies).
MINORITY REPORT
Superficially, DEMOLITION MAN might seem like a lunkheaded action flick but reveals a bit of depth under analysis. Many of the "futuristic" concepts and lingo are played for laughs, but some of it is actually not far off the mark, with warring conglomerates and discussions about class disparity perhaps now more common than ever.

DEMOLITION MAN's speculation of ubiquitous electronic monitoring was shared by MINORITY REPORT, and it's rapidly becoming the world we live in. But Spielberg's film also presented a number of other intriguing and useful concepts that are edging closer to reality. Neither movie's reality seems like a particularly wonderful place to live as soon as you scratch the surface, but the future world of MINORITY REPORT seems to have more cool stuff that could very well exist in the coming days.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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