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Neuroethics

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 73–88 | Cite as

Novel Neurotechnologies in Film—A Reading of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report

  • Timothy Krahn
  • Andrew Fenton
  • Letitia Meynell
Original Paper

Abstract

The portrayal of novel neurotechnologies in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report serves to inoculate viewers from important moral considerations that are displaced by the film’s somewhat singular emphasis on the question of how to reintroduce freedom of choice into an otherwise technology driven world. This sets up a crisis mentality and presents a false dilemma regarding the appropriate use, and regulation, of neurotechnologies. On the one hand, it seems that centralized power is required to both control and effectively implement such technologies and, on the other hand, individual heroic resistance is required to protect citizens from the invasions of personal privacy and state control made possible through neurotechnologies. While Minority Report, as a dystopic vision of emergent neurotechnologies, engages surface ethical issues it risks cheapening them through its rather simplistic, dichotomous analysis. Most conspicuously absent from this approach is a sense of the social matrices that work to circumscribe or augment expressions of human freedom, privacy, control and power that are all implicated in our engagement with novel neurotechnologies. Were Minority Report unique in this respect it would have little interest, but we think this type of cheapening of ethical discourse about novel technologies is common. Because science fiction film informs the social imaginary in which ethical considerations and ultimately policy decisions take place, such cheapening risks subverting pervasive and tangible ethical issues by focusing on the sensationalistic and simplistic.

Keywords

Ethics Films (neuro)technology Freedom Social control Power Gresham’s law of ethics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research for this paper was funded in part by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Thanks are owed to an anonymous reviewer for this journal and members of the Novel Tech Ethics research team for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Novel Tech Ethics, Intellectual Commons, Department of BioethicsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Novel Tech Ethics, Department of BioethicsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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