With a new movie coming out, another Indiana Jones sequel in the works and a confirmed reputation as Hollywood's most bankable director, you'd think Steven Spielberg would be pretty excited about the future.
Actually, he's a little worried.
In directing his new thriller, Minority Report, Spielberg has had a lot of time to contemplate where mankind is headed, and he's come to the conclusion that the loss of privacy to the peering eye of law enforcement is inevitable.
In the new movie, Tom Cruise plays a police officer in a futuristic Washington, D.C. He leads a "pre-crime" unit that employs infallible psychics and surveillance technology to arrest killers before they commit crimes.
Danger for Nerds With a Funny Walk
That may seem like farfetched science fiction, but Spielberg is not so certain. He's worried that America's war on terrorism has set in motion new high-tech methods to try to find criminals before they can carry out their crimes.
"They have a computer program that they're developing that's going to try to predict human behavior and be able to spot terrorism in airports," the filmmaker says.
"What they're looking for is anomalies in behavior. It's sort of a mean average of how people behave when they're simply walking down the street and they're going to compare that to people whose behavior is more erratic," he says.
And that makes the Oscar-winning director distinctly uneasy.
"What really disturbs me — a nerd who does have a weird walk — is that I imagine that suddenly a van pulls up and hauls me into an interrogation, you know, for being original … or for being different."
Cruise: ‘It Is a Dilemma’
Minority Report, which opens nationwide on Friday, paints a vivid image of the future. It's based on a story by Philip K. Dick, whose writing was the basis for Blade Runner and Total Recall.
The film takes place in 2054, when Washingtonians shuttle between ultra-large skyscrapers in mass-transit magnetic levitation pods that move horizontally on roads and vertically up buildings.
Eye retinal scans serve as ID cards. The newspapers feature moving images. And advertisers know so much about you that billboards address you by your first name as you pass — with products tailored to your needs based on past purchases.
In one telling scene, Cruise's Detective John Anderton is at his kitchen table, being hounded by the animated cartoons on his own cereal box until he chucks it against the wall in disgust.
Cruise also agrees that the future holds a loss of privacy. He worries that the powers that may be given law enforcement to fight terrorism now may never be rescinded.
"Like anything, it becomes the norm," he says. "Once you get that machine going it is a dilemma, because we need it, and yet on the other hand, I don't even think the public realizes ultimately what they're going to be giving up in terms of their personal freedom."
Cruise's character works with a law enforcement team that uses the extrasensory perception of three scientifically proven, infallible psychics — called "pre-cogs" — to fight crime.
The pre-cogs foresee a murder before one occurs, and they steer pre-crime agents to the culprit before the crime takes place.
The pre-crime unit has reduced the D.C. murder rate to zero, and the government is about to make it a national program. But the tables are turned on Anderton when his own name comes up on the pre-cogs' list of future murderers.