Though precrime is successful in shaping up a crime-free state, but it nonetheless raises pressing questions when it comes to free will and justice. Shall a person be jailed just for the fact that he has planned to kill another person but has not yet committed the crime? Shall not the person be given another chance to think about committing the murder? Is it justified to put the future criminals in the detention camp merely on the suspicion that they will commit the crime in future? Is it morally correct to arrest and put them in the detention camp without giving a proper trial to their future crime? Is a crime-free state so important that it can override personal liberty and principles of natural justice? These are some of the pressing questions that Dick’s story raises, with no clear answers in sight.
One of the major issues that the narrative raises is that of morality and individual freedom. The entire system runs on a misplaced assumption that if any person thinks of committing a crime, s/he would commit it nonetheless. The three mutants calculate the thoughts of the perpetrators and judge the time, place and victim of the crime and provide the information to the police who have devised this mechanism to ensure a crime free society. But this ultimately leads to dehumanization of liberty and free will. The would-be criminals are never provided with a fair trial to ascertain the objective of their killing.
The initial impression in the beginning of the story about the precrime is of a negative system which works much against the liberties of the citizen. Towards the end however, the fact that precrime has accurately predicted the death of Kaplan at the hands of Anderton, shows the system to be fool proof. But it also raises another unanswered question. Will it commit a mistake in future?
The precrime method has been put to trial by the ethical and political ramifications that entails along with it. The ethical implications of such a system, no matter how beneficial it might be, is questioned here by Philip K. Dick. The ethical and moral questions related to free will, liberty and life are raised in the story.
Science fiction is issue based. The reader needs to be more concerned in explicating and analyzing the range of issues that the author takes up in the story. The central concern is whether it is morally correct to punish someone who has not yet committed a crime? This also raises another significant question – what if the perpetrator has a change of heart and he refuses to commit the crime at the last moment? Will punishing him be morally correct?
Philip K. Dick is raising a very political and ideological question in the last scene of the story. Anderton clearly belongs to the privileged class of people in the story – the ones who are politically strong and also bureaucratically well placed to find the loopholes in the system and evade punishment. He has the privilege that he is the police commissioner and that he can access the data and hence evade arrest. But the other ordinary would-be criminals did not get a fair chance to prevent the mishap from happening and were imprisoned in the detention camps.