Wednesday, July 10, 2002

We have John Underkoffler, formerly of the MIT Media Lab interviewed in Salon, about the vision of the future in Minority Report. In particular

Of all the technological advancements showcased in the film, how much of this stuff actually exists or is in the early stages of development?

Underkoffler: I would say a surprisingly large fraction. Almost an astoundingly large fraction. The mag-lev cars, for example. Although we don't have mag-lev technology that works on vertical surfaces, mag-lev technology has been around for many decades, spearheaded by professor Eric Laithwaite, who died not too long ago. And, of course, in Japan and Europe you have mag-lev trains. The nonlethal weapons are all variants or extrapolations of currently existing or under-development technology. It would be hard to identify anything that had no grounding in reality. I think that was very much by design.

I think by this he means that they took things that currently exist and then extrapolated them a little bit. There is nothing really out there, and this is why the film looks so pedestrian. That is what happens when you create a thinktank. The results are boring, even if it is a think tank of smart people like the Media Lab or GBN , both of which contain people I respect. To get something really out there, you need creative, obsessive, and somewhat antisocial people on their own. Like Philip K Dick. Or even Ridley Scott. I just don't think that Spielberg and the people around him have the sensibility of Dick, at all. Oddly, I think that Cruise's previous film Vanilla Sky had a much more Dickian sensibility than did Minority Report: besides the fact that Dick's favourite two questions (What is real? and What is human?) are central to that film, there's a scene in the middle of it which is lifted right out of A Scanner Darkly. Vanilla Sky is a remake of Alejandro Amenabar's Abre Les Ojos. Amenabar seems fond of stuff with a Dickian bent: I think it is there in The Others too, although that is in a genre somewhat removed from Dick. I wouldn't mind seeing Amenabar tackling something from Dick directly. That could be very interesting.

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