Minority Report Summary

Phillip K. Dick

Minority Report

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Minority Report Summary

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“The Minority Report” is a short story by Phillip K. Dick that appeared originally in the science fiction magazine Fantastic Universe in 1956. Dick (b. 1928-d. 1982) was an American author whose works explored philosophical themes, often through the lens of science fiction. Recurring themes in his work include altered and shared consciousness, the concept of free will, authoritarian organizations, and empathy. Some of his best known works are The Man in the High Castle (1962), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974). Many of his novels and short stories have been adapted into television dramas and films, including Blade Runner (1984), Total Recall (1990), A Scanner Darkly (2006), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011). In 2002 “The Minority Report” was adapted into a film starring Tom Cruise and directed by Stephen Spielberg, though the plot of the film diverges somewhat from the source material.

In the short story, protagonist John Allison Anderton is the inventor of a new criminal justice system, dubbed Precrime. The system harnesses the telepathic powers of three mutant “precogs” that have the ability to see the future and predict crimes before they occur. Would-be criminals are arrested up to a week before their crimes would have been committed, and sent to detention camps. The efficiency of the system has led to a dramatic decrease in felonies of over 99%, with only one murder taking place in the previous five years. Anderton acknowledges the inherent paradox of a system wherein criminals are arrested before a crime has been committed, which means that technically they are innocent of the crime they are arrested for; however, he does not seem at all bothered by the technicality. The story begins as aging Police Commissioner Anderton meets his eventual successor, Edward Witwer. While leading Witwer on a tour of the Precrime systems, Anderton checks the names of the most recently predicted criminals, and slips one of the cards into his pocket. It is revealed that Anderton’s own name has come up on the card, and it predicts that he will commit a murder.

Anderton is convinced that he is being framed by Witwer, who is after his job even though Anderton is not prepared to retire. He tells his young wife, Lisa, of the existence of the card, and plans to go on the run. A series of checks and balances ensures that there are two copies of every report generated by the precogs: one left in the hands of the police, and one delivered to the army, in order to stave off corruption. Thus, it is impossible for Anderton to access both copies of the report before they are seen. He must go into hiding in order to prove he was somehow framed, which he knows must be the case since he has never met his supposed victim, Leopold Kaplan.

While he is packing to flee, Anderton is removed from his apartment by men with guns, but instead of being taken back to police quarters, he is driven to meet a well-dressed elderly man. The man turns out to be Kaplan, who demands to know why Anderton would kill someone he doesn’t know. Anderton professes his innocence, but Kaplan decides to have him taken to the police anyway, as a safety precaution. As he is being transported back, a violent traffic accident organized by a mysterious man calling himself Fleming allows Anderton to escape. While hiding out, Anderton hears a news report about his case and is reminded of the existence of the minority report, which he decides he must access in order to prove his innocence. Occasionally, the precogs do not all predict the same outcome of future events, and when one has a report that conflicts with the other two, a record of the discrepancy is kept as the minority report. Anderton contacts his former co-worker Page to get into police headquarters unnoticed. His listens to the minority report, which reveals that Anderton would change his mind about murdering Kaplan once he saw his name on the ticket. Anderton makes a copy of the tape and is reluctantly helped out of the building by his wife.

Lisa tries to convince Anderton to turn himself in, for the good of the system he created. He reasons that many of the people in the detention camp may have also changed their minds about committing their crimes if they had been given the opportunity, but revealing this flaw in the system would mean an end to Precrime entirely. Anderton is more concerned for his own safety and decides instead to show the tapes to Kaplan, who is a retired General and would be able to offer him protection. Fleming appears suddenly on the plane, and tries to kill Lisa to stop her from persuading Anderton from turning himself it. Anderton knocks him unconscious to save his wife. They find out that Fleming had been working for the army and was deliberately trying to sabotage the Precrime system in order to secure more power for the army. Unsure who to trust, Anderton listens to the reports of each individual precog. He enlists the help of Witwer and his wife to get him close to Kaplan.

Kaplan holds an army rally and invites Anderton onstage with him in an attempt to discredit Precrime. He reads the crowd a transcription of the minority report in which Anderton had changed his mind to try and sway public opinion, and to convince the audience that this could be happening all the time. He also plans to read the majority reports that detail how the murder would have taken place, but tries to flee when he sees the third report. Anderton shoots him, and hands himself over to the police. He then explains to Witwer what had happened: The precogs were not all foreseeing the same incident, but rather each saw one part of a chain of events. The first saw Anderton killing Kaplan when he tried to take over the Senate in a coup; the second precog saw Anderton finding his name and then resolving to kill Kaplan; and the third showed the last series of events, were the army tried to regain control and Anderton changed his mind again. Because two reports resulted in Anderton killing Kaplan, they became the majority report.

Witwer agrees to send Anderton and Lisa to the frontier planets rather than a detention camp. Anderton tells Witwer that the only reason the precogs generated three different reports was because he had had access to the reports. He says that the only person such a thing could happen to is the Police Commissioner, the role that Witwer has now taken over.