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Precognition and The Minority Report June 12, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
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Here in Washington, yet another “crazy” person killed five people last week.  The murderer’s friends and family say they knew he was a time bomb waiting to explode and tried to notify the proper authorities, but nothing was done.  After the crime was committed, there was the usual handwringing and blaming the system for not having the tools in place to stop this crime.  Some even suggested that a new department be created so that people could report those with bizarre behavior in order to lock them up before they committed the crime.

It reminds me a little of the plot for “The Minority Report”, a movie starring Tom Cruise.  In the movie, people were jailed by police for supposedly intending to create a crime. Plot summary:  In the year 2054 A.D. crime is virtually eliminated from Washington D.C. thanks to an elite law enforcing squad “Precrime”. They use three gifted humans (called “Pre-Cogs”) with special powers to see into the future and predict crimes beforehand. John Anderton heads Precrime and believes the system’s flawlessness steadfastly. However one day the Pre-Cogs predict that Anderton will commit a murder himself in the next 36 hours. Worse, Anderton doesn’t even know the victim. He decides to get to the mystery’s core by finding out about the ‘minority report’ which means the prediction of the female Pre-Cog Agatha that “might” tell a different story and prove Anderton innocent.

Once you get into the probability that someone will commit a crime, you move down the slippery slope to The Minority Report.  Jailing someone for “intending” to create a crime is wrong. When you start to jail people for this, you start down that slope.

When it comes to the mentally ill, it takes more than someone thinking a crime is to be committed beforehand unless that person is a known danger to himself or others.  The problem with this law when applied to mentally ill people is that most  people suffering from mental illness, especially including paranoid schizophrenia (which I believe that shooter had)  don’t seek help beforehand.  They aren’t labeled mentally ill because they haven’t entered the mental illness system. They simply aren’t diagnosed.  And one of the symptoms of those illnesses includes an inability to understand that they are sick.  So you have tragedies like last week’s happening because of a culmination of the flaws in our system.  And yet “precognition” isn’t the answer either.

I understand the nature of the frustration with the current system.  We have had several bouts of paranoid schizophrenia-induced attacks on the general public within the past few years.  Actually, this type of thing has been going on for eons, and it’s simply due to the rapidity of the news cycle that we learn about these types of occurrences as quickly as we do now- which is to say almost immediately.  They have always been there, but they were under-reported.

The answer at this juncture is to carefully consider the effect that limiting personal freedom would have.  Too much damage would occur were we to move to a “Minority Report” type of system, which is what is being talked about now.  I vote no.

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