A Minority Report Future: Good or Bad?

Years ago, I saw the movie Minority Report for the first time. I enjoy science fiction and action movies, so I really liked the movie, although I’m not the biggest Tom Cruise fan.

I was struck by the way the movie portrayed the future. The Minority Report future is one in which everyone’s decisions and interactions are recorded and utilized to tailor advertisements and other marketing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, but I remember a scene where Tom Cruise’s character walks into a Gap store and is greeted by a hologram that carried information on his previous purchases and recommendations for his future purchases.

I often love tailored suggestions… Amazon, for example, does a great job of sending me emails with products I may be interested in based on my search history. Listening to artists similar to bands I already enjoy has introduced me to some great new music. However, I feel like while this style of marketing is usually helpful and efficient, it has some potentially detrimental consequences.

Extreme personalization looks at each person as only the sum of their past actions. Therefore, it kind of places each person in a box and fails to acknowledge that he or she may be interested in goods or services outside of previous tastes and interests. With such tailored marketing, we could miss out on a lot.

Also, with a system that collects so much information on people, it is difficult to be anonymous. The technology required to log peoples’ purchasing habits could also track other information that may be more personal. While I don’t necessarily have a problem with being targeting for certain products, I do find issue in companies having access to more personal information. It’s not that I have anything to hide, but I feel entitled to a certain level of privacy. I know that any information I put on Facebook can be sold, I don’t believe that other things, like my email messages and Internet history, should be available to others. Just as the police couldn’t go through someone’s house without a search warrant, I don’t think access to certain information should be granted without cause.

Technology is great, but with the introduction of new tools and the increased dependence, the future can appear a little scary. I think the key is in finding a happy medium where people’s private information is kept safe, but companies are able to provide personalized suggestions… For now, though, I don’t know where that balance is.

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