The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

A Pre-crime system would benefit society

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/5/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,834 times Debate No: 36381
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




Full Resolution: A Pre-crime punishment system, such as that portrayed in Philip K. Dick's Minority Report, would be, overall, beneficial to society.

Pre-crime punishment system: A system where it is possible to detect crimes before they happen and individuals are arrested before they can commit the crime.

Beneficial: Favorable or advantageous; resulting in good.

First Round Acceptance and any clarification

So semantics, trolling or obscenity.

Would prefer if my opponent had read (or at least seen the movie of) Minority Report, but it is not essential.

Good luck in advance to whoever accepts.


An interesting debate, I must say. I have seen Minority report, so are we going on the premise of the oracles or do you just have a machine that predicts the crimes?
Debate Round No. 1


My position is a simple one. If there were a way of predicting the future, through the use of oracles like in Minority Report or potentially through the use of some other from of technology, and subsequently use this information to prevent acts of crime, such as murder, before they happen, then overall this would be beneficial to society.

The first, and main, point is that it will keep people safer. Some murders are premeditated acts of violence, out of revenge, spite or simply by psychopaths. Some are crimes of passion, where people suddenly become enraged and aggressive, and others, such as muggings or robberies gone bad, can be attributed to people being in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a Precrime system in place, capable of seeing these events before they happen, many helpless victims would not have to suffer the cruel injustice of having their lives cut short by someone else.

Not only would the system work to prevent murders once they have been detected, but, once established would also act as a deterrent. In the same way the idea of a Panopticon in a prison regulates the behaviour of the inmates because they begin to believe they are always being watched, a Precrime system would work to deter acts of crime form being committed all together. Why would anyone in their right minds plan to commit a murder when they know they are just going to be arrested before it even happens? Sure, crimes of passion may still be attempted, but with a system advanced enough, such as that portrayed in Minority Report, these too would be able to be prevented.

In short, a Precrime system would cut crime, making society a safer place and drastically reducing the amount of families who have their lives torn apart by the unnecessary loss of a loved one.

Furthermore, this system would eliminate the messy, post-crime punitive system, where people are arrested and put on trial after the commission of the crime itself. It would eliminate the danger of potential criminals committing more crime while out on bail. Long, expensive legal trials could be avoided and, while most of the time justice is done, an act of murder could never be undone.

That's really all I have to say for now, I'm sorry to my opponent for the rather delayed reply, I didn't realise how busy my week was when I posted. I eagerly look forward to my opponents reply.



Remember that most crimes are not committed rationally. And if you did stop them, you couldn't arrest them because they hadn't done anything. You'd just have to show up to the crime and shout; "stop it!". And finally, I have one more problem with this oracle system. The oracles rarely predicted events correctly. If you were to predict a murder, would it not appear to you as the person being arrested, not committing the crime? You would in fact, have a ridiculous and incompetent society, ruled by fear and whoever held the Oracle's power. Would it only predict violent crimes? White collar crimes are harder to predict like that. This leads me to believe that the Oracle power would be a prediction for all parts of the future, not just crime related. Which means that very power could be abused. Who would predict that? Who could be trusted with fate itself?
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent seems to have responded to my arguments with a paragraph of statements and open-ended questions, so I will reply to each in turn.

Whether crimes are committed in a rational state of mind or not is irrelevant to the debate. Whether you are talking about a wife stabbing her husband to death for cheating on her, or a hitman hired to kill in cold blood, if a system existed, whereby you could 'see' these events taking place, then they could both be prevented from happening.

The problem of having to arrest people who have not committed a crime is one that is much discussed in both the original short story and film versions of Minority Report. In the text, John Anderton describes the act of committing the crime itself to be 'complete metaphysics' and I think that the above clip, accurately illustrates the reasoning behind a Pre-crime system. The oracle (or machine, or whatever is doing the predicting) does not see what might happen, only what will happen.

I do not understand my opponents reasoning behind the statement that a Pre-crime system would lead to a 'ridiculous and incompetent society, ruled by fear'. In fact, it would be quite the opposite. With the general public not having to live in fear of being murdered I don't see how hey would be 'ruled by fear'.

The claims of incompetence are just as ludicrous. If anything, the system that is currently in place in society today, where police or other law enforcement agencies must follow leads or tips (which are often unreliable). Sometimes they catch the crook, sometimes they don't, but it is almost always after the crime has already been committed, in other words, it is almost always to late. To call a system that would eliminate the guesswork and uncertainty from police work, as well as the ability to apprehend a criminal before they can damage society incompetent does not make logical sense.

Finally, I believe the only valid and on topic concern raised by my opponent was the problem of this system being abused. In his short story, Dick creates a check and balance system, whereby all the information that Pre-crime receives is also received by the army, meaning that neither organisation can abuse their power without the other knowing about it. It would not be difficult at all to set up a procedure similar to this is Pre-crime were ever made a real possibility. I acknowledge that although this would make it incredibly difficult to corrupt the system, it still would not be impossible. All I have to say on that matter is this: Corruption is already rampant in law enforcement today. People are susceptible to bribes and threats from criminals looking to get let off, and that will probably never change.

But the system must be considered on its overall merits. No matter what we do, they flaws that make us all inherently human, and separate us from robots will always be apparent. Yet as the system becomes more reliable these flaws become less and less relevant. I have already outlined the vast benefits of a Pre-crime system and OVERALL, the advantages greatly out way the disadvantages, especially when those same disadvantages are already present in the current system.



The explanation for the pre-cogs is flawed. You have used the example of a man killing his wife for cheating on her. He intends to kill her, but his movements are predicted and he is arrested. he did not kill her. Going back to the moment, he wasn't going to kill her because he was going to be stopped. This flaw means that the pre cogs must predict all possible futures and find the most likely and relevant, then remove the ones where the person is arrested and display it. Since there is an infinite number of universes with infinite versions of the event, this feat is impossible.

Now, the biggest problem with the pre crime system, I will call the Slave to Fate argument. So lets say your "Oracle", sounds better than Pre-Cog anyway, is in fact a machine that does predict the optimum future and does in fact predict the police arresting the person. This machine has one flaw already;

Since it detects crimes, it must already follow a system of law. An easy task if the world is under one flag as in Minority Report, but laws are different in every society. Would the oracle predict homosexuals in Iraq? Which country would own the Oracle, or would each have one? These are open ended questions I know, but they are flaws in the system nevertheless. The only solution to the laws problem is that the Oracle predicts all events, and a filter of specific laws is then applied. This opens a door to a whole new set of problems that come with future predictions. If the predictions that happen are countered, the Oracle will simply predict the counter happening. This means that Fate will become an established thing that cannot be fully altered. Supposing that a politician wishes to use it to his advantage? He would be arrested yes, but what if the Oracle predicted the scientist working the Oracle accepted a bribe? Would he report that? And you've said that the Army is notified too. I feel safer already. No one is more trustworthy with time altering powers than the US military. Snowden releasing their surveillance was a crime. Their spying was not. Do you now see how this prediction could be used by authorities such as the military and politicians to control opposition? There must be someone of absolute standards who controls the Oracle alone. Someone of absolute morals. A slave to fate, so to speak. The ultimate problem surfaces when the military commits a war crime, the Oracle predicts it, but the military is notified too. They make a move against the Oracle, which the Oracle predicts, all the while the police are powerless since they can't stop an army. The Oracle predicts that alerting the police would be a crime since revealing military secrets is illegal. The Oracle then predicts the military taking over the Oracle, something no one can stop. The military can now establish total domination over all the US's enemies and predict their actions, essentially ruling the world. The world now under one flag, the Oracle can finally predict for the whole world, but under the new filter of the US military. The masters of time destroy their enemies while their enemies cannot raise a finger without the Oracle knowing. Your pre crime system will inevitably lead to military dictatorship. So stick that in your minority report and write it.
Debate Round No. 3


Your arguments are, in themselves, contradictory. You argue that, due to each countries laws being different you would have to apply filters to the 'Oracles' for it to be able to detect the respect acts of crime, using the case of a widespread system to your advantage. Then you focus on the idea that, if the 'Oracles' utilised by the US government, they would be able to use it's predicting powers to essentially take over the world.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either the system is widespread and multiple nations have adopted it and the idea of a Precrime system, as per your first argument, OR the system is not widespread and as such a military power (not necessarily the US, why does it always have to be the US?) who has access to it is able to use it to take over the world. If the system were present in other regions with differing laws then they too would have access to this information and it would effectively cancel each other out.

Furthermore, I did not explicitly say that the military would have to be the back up system. As this idea comes from Minority Report I merely included from the example used in the text. Notably, in the story, the military does try to seize power from the police through the use of the Precrime system, however John Anderton is able to prevent this thanks to the premonitions of the Precogs. My point was that putting in place measures to prevent corruption (or at the very least minimise) corruption, would not be overly difficult.

You are also still stuck in the paradigm where a person who has not committed a crime can not be arrested. The idea of the Precrime system is that they can be! In your argument you say "He intends to kill her, but his movements are predicted and he is arrested. he did not kill her." This is the exact reason why the Precrime system is beneficial. As I previously outline, it replaces the need for a long, arduous, post-crime detective case and trial, as well as saving the life of the victim.

Your paradox about what the Precogs see is also easily resolved. You must consider the future as changeable, not set in stone, which is heavily discussed in Dick's story.

Say you are at time A, in the present, and at this point the precogs predict an event, lets say a murder, at time B, somewhere in the future. At the time when the precogs predicted it, that event was still going to take place. However at time C, let's say 10 minutes after A when the prediction has been analysed, the fact that knowledge of the murder at time B is now available, and used to prevent means that an alternate time path is created, one that is indeed different to that predicted by the precogs, but only came about because of this prediction. Had it not occurred then everything would have happened as per normal and a tragic murder would have been committed. Furthermore, your assertion that there are infinite universes is based on scientific theory and although many scientists believe this theory to be true, it is still a long way from being fact.

Finally, I would like to reassert the resolution as it stood when my opponent accepted at the start of the debate: A Pre-crime punishment system, such as that portrayed in Philip K. Dick's Minority Report, would be, overall, beneficial to society.

This system is merely used to detect acts of crime (actually in Minority report it was just murder, but I'm not bothered by the idea of expansion). It is not used for politicians to get a leg up on their competition, and given the proper programming it never would be.

As this is my last post I would like to thank Duncan for the debate, he has certainly provided thought provoking and challenging arguments and I wish him luck for the final round. I now leave the debate in his capable hands, and soon after the hands of the voters.


The many contradictions that feature in my speech are only products of the paradoxes of time travel and the inevitable corruption surrounding it. In Minority Report, there is no reference to nationality, but you could assume they were Americans. The first problem lies with creating the Oracle. Who gets it? Say America, because of Minority Report. Why would they give any other country an Oracle, if it can be misused. America would never trust Pakistan or North Korea with one, the same way they aren't trusted with Nuclear technology.

See, the real problem with Minority Report is the Sci Fi setting. It is a separate world to our own. If an Oracle was installed in an American prison and used to predict things, the Military intervening is not illegal under the Patriot Act, since they can label the police terrorists and arrest them. Our society is not capable of properly using this kind of technology, the same way the the society in MR already had robots to scan the city. The paradox of the Oracle is just a flaw with all time travel , so it may as well be a machine that travels universes. I am unaware If you follow Bioshock, but in Bioshock Infinite, this technology, predictions and quantum technology exists, but the society that develops it is bigoted and intolerant. We are closer to Columbia of Bioshock than the Minority Universe, and we'd likely destroy ourselves like the threat of nuclear testing has given us already. It has been a pleasure to debate with you though, and I await our next discussion.

Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by ObiWan 5 years ago
That would be interesting, I guess it is still makes the system more effective though, albeit in a slightly different way
Posted by Ragnar 5 years ago
I can really imagine such a system being made, and political battles causing no one being allowed to act on the information until the crime is complete. Thus lessening the burden on the court system, but saving no one.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Both arguments were good, particularly con making me doubt the benefits of the system. Had con focused more on the harm done in different countries (thus more harm than benefit to societies via executing babies for future gayness), I believe he would have won my vote. "Your pre crime system will inevitably lead to military dictatorship. So stick that in your minority report and write it." I did not see any mention of harm done by a one nation world (particularly led by the US), and with terrible places like North Korea mentioned, I see this as a firm potential benefit to the system. "the advantages greatly out way the disadvantages, especially when those same disadvantages are already present in the current system," sums up the subject very well.