Catching Up to the Future: How technology in Minority Report wasn't that far off

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I remember the first time I saw the movie Minority Report.  It was the Summer of 2002,  a time in American  history when we really chased hard after heroes.  We jumped from media headline to media headline, looking for something — anything — to feel a little safer at night even if it meant clinging tightly to make-believe.   And who can blame us? Just ten months before we woke up to horrific images splayed across our television sets.

(A scared new world.)

Terrorists stuck a four-pronged spear in our  softspot, and we were still reeling, and while we pumped ourselves up for this new War on Terrorism, we were gripped by a gung-ho zeitgeist.  George Dubya was our champion and our cheerleader.

But still, we needed more . We needed Hollywood to give us perspective.

That summer, just ten short months after that  awful morning in mid September when our illusions of American impregnability were shattered,  we needed to feel safe.  We needed to feel like there was some way to control the random way violence and fear can infiltrate lives.

Enter Tom Cruise and the notion of Precrime.

(And Steven Spielberg can bring it like no other.)

I  remember sitting in the theatre – smack dab in the center, my popcorn untouched and my Coke flat-lining because I was so taken with Minority Report’s premise and  execution that all I could do was stare at the screen and sink into the story:  Precrime — A way of ensuring that murder is eradicated.  Sounds great.  Sounds… safe.  And yet — not to get all Greek Tragedy on you — there was an inevitable and all-too-human component that could unravel the system.

And unravel it did.  With a banging soundtrack.  And lots and lots of shots of Tom Cruise running.   (Because that’s what he does best. Just saying.)

While the story itself was gripping, and the concept of the Precogs was compelling, I was most enthralled by the opening scene:  I remember being blown away while I watched Tom Cruise manipulating light and space with the wave of his hands.  There was a poignancy to it , a grace I would never expect of him, and I stared open-mouthed as the images whirled like virtual ballerinas.  Tom Cruise was magnificent as he conducted the images in syncopated time while Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony soared in the background.


And you know what’s kind of awesome?  Minus the creepy Precogs and the flying cars,  nearly ten years later, this technology is kind of sort of around:

So props to Spielberg for seeing into the future.  And lets hope we can do the same: Despite our fears, I hope we take heed from the way things went down in Minority Report and steer clear of making this dystopian vision of the future our social paradigm.

(*Cough* Patriot Act *Cough*)

Yes, there are very real things to be afraid of – yes, there are monsters who would seek to strike  us while we sleep.  But trying to predict a nebulous future can morph into a self-fulfilling prophecy:  In other words, thinking we know what will happen  can sometimes make it so.

(Yeah, Oprah called.  She wants “The Secret” back.)

And ultimately, as random and chaotic as life can be — and as hard as we try to control our world, and our future, Precrime doesn’t pay.

Regulating the Revolution – IPTV, WebTV and The Challenges ahead

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Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase

Image by via CrunchBase

This post is a part of a series about media, regulation and technology. It is aimed to encourage conversation and exchange opinions, and is not a legal advise or a single comprehensive article.

Regulators are facing new and complex challenges in the recent years, when new technologies are changing the way people consume media.

In The Past Things Were Simple

In the past years, Media and Medium were one. In this post I define media as the type of content being delivered (TV show, Radio Show, etc), and medium as the carrier technology (Broadcast TV, cable, RF, etc). In this environment, regulators that were in charge of the medium, in a way of providing licenses, could control the content itself.

Also content had one main format – all TV shows were moving pictures seen on TV sets. All radio shows were audio delivered via the air, based on regulated spectrum regime, and so on.

Another important angle was that cost of delivery was relatively high – broadcasting requires considerable investment in technology and licenses. The requirement for such an investment was an automatic filter that enabled only large companies to play this game.


Let's Talk about Content Delivery, Vendors, Creators and Users – at IMTC Forum

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Do you remember the times when service providers didn’t think about issues such as being a pipe versus media company? When media consumers could easily identify which device is used for video and which for audio? When content creators had to buy equipment in millions and millions of dollars just to create one minute of moving picture – and distribute it?

Well, these times are long gone. Today, technology is disrupting the whole industry – and its value chain. Content creators are making new innovative media products for a fraction of the cost, and distribute it independently. Availability of high bandwidth across networks poses a dilemma to service provider regarding their role in the market place, and which infrastructure will support an unclear future. Users consume media in various shapes and forms – often with intrusive content protection methods that affect their rights.

IMTC Forum will discuss these issues and more, with thought leaders from companies such as Radvision, Cisco, AT&T, BEA, Avaya, RealNetworks, FWD, and independent content creators. Panels cover perspectives of each industry player – vendors, users, content creators, service providers, and the link between content delivery and unified communication.

The event, a Fall VON pre-conference, is taking place in Boston on the 29th of October. Come to say Hello, and be a part of a controversial and insightful conversation.

(Cross posted here)

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Weekend Links – Porn, Zombies, Players and Big Brothers

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CinemaTech: Is Porn Industry an Indicator of How Quickly Mainstream Movies Will Go Digital? – probably is, though it will take longer for the others

The Business Of Online Video: RealNetworks Introduces New Player: We Already Have Too Many – totally agree, but give a good one which is not VLC player and I am happy.

NewTeeVee » Does Digital Fingerprinting Work?: An Investigative Report

– it seems that not really…

Help Izzy to make his wife happy – I watch his show, so I should at least help a bit 🙂

And, last but not least – how to be a Zombie on the cheap:

Have a great weekend!

Kfir Pravda

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Weekend Links

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Some weekend links:

Om Malik has covers the new video regulations of EU and Japan

If you want to see more DIY tutorials, and learn about micro budget films, Microcinema Scene is the site for you.

And finally, one funny link I got from a friend – Jack Black has his own video creation tutorial. Did you know that he is a son of rocket scientists and shares the same birthday as the breathtaking Shania Twain? Makes you think…

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to have fun!

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Monday Morning Short Link-o-rama

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Some of the more interesting links on the web today:

– Om Malik has an interesting view on the grim future of stand-alone boxes in the living room – have to agree with him on that.

Newteevee published a short article about cool new P2P devices.

– Lance Weiler discuss his “lesson learned” from an interactive screening of his movie Head Trauma.

– My friend Tsahi send me an excellent legal guide for bloggers.

YouTube Viacom Lawsuit Coverage – Ongoing Updates

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David Mirchin, Internet Law Professor and a friend, wrote an excellent article about the YouTube / Viacom case. You can read it here, and contact him here.

I am going to have a podcast with David on this topic soon, so if you have any questions that need to be addressed, feel free to write a short comment…

UPDATE: Techdirt, one of my favorite blogs, adds another angle in this post.

4/4/07 UPDATE: Scott Kirsner from Cinematech (one of my favorite blogs about the relations between technology and the movie industry) has a short piece about both sides claims as they were published in Washington Post.

VON07: Pulver Announce Video On The Net Coalition

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Jonathan Askin, general Counsel (and Wartime Consiglieri) at, announced yesterday on the creation of the Video On The Net Alliance, a global consortium of video content creators and application providers aimed at keeping this new industry free from government regulation.

As you all know, Jeff Pulver has a long history in VoIP politics, and it seems like he is trying to achieve the same goals in the new video industry . You can find more information here.