Question inspired by movies Minority Report and Her

The year is 2050, USA: The future is "realistically optimistic": We, the humans, have steady progress in computers and AI: We use wearable AI, which can communicate with us using natural human language.

We also use self-driving cars and hoverboards. Several more terrorist attack in the twenties also motivated people to be registered in the system by their retina scans.

The retina scanning devices came up in 2033, so by year 2050 you have 99.999 % population of the USA "in the system." Only people left are ultra orthodox Amish communities, but they went for trade-off: You leave us alone in specific area and we will never leave it. If we leave it, we will do so only through assigned checkpoints which means our retina will be scanned.

By 2050, majority (above 70%) of people confirm transactions by their retina. While "good old classic" credit cards are still in use, they are used only by minority of people. Paper money are gone by now. (You may assume cryptocurrencies replacing paper money)

Year 2015, current day: Joe the Average, has some real trouble: He was warped to year 2050 by accident (time travel is plot device, so it just happened without explanation how or why)

Joe Average appears in generally crowded area of USA (I don't want to go Times Square, NY, but the place should be pretty busy) at broad daylight.

The question

I assume people will fear of Joe, because he is not in any database. And boy, his retina will be scanned in 5 seconds after he appears (and trigger alarm)

I know that homeland security, police and FBI will go "full red alarm" because of this (Assume fear of terrorists and knowledge that "lone white guy can be terrorist too")

Now: What should I change in the setup in order to let Joe survive?

After thinking about above story, I immediately started to assume that Joe would be killed by security force.

In the story, I want to give him rough start, but generally I would like to let him survive in order to discover shiny year 2050.

P.S: Joe appears "generally harmless" and I do not assume some huge language progress from 2015 to 2050, so communicating should be not an obstacle.

Also, retina scanning technology by 2050 is so progressed, that it can recognize any human "in real time"

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I can't imagine that security forces kill someone they don't know in a "realistically optimistic" environment. More likely they will arrest him until they find his identity (with DNA if eye scanning fails). By the way, that guy might belong to an Amish community in 2015, in which case his clothes are a hint not to kill him. $\endgroup$
    – mouviciel
    Jul 29, 2015 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ I wanted to say: Overall progress from 2015 to 2050 is realistically optimistic. However, the people fear terrorist attacks and unknown person in a middle of crowded area can pose huge threat $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2015 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ If the response to the detection of a stranger is "shoot to kill", which prevents any possibility of interrogation to determine the "terrorist"'s origin and organization, I'd hardly characterize that as "optimism". And that sort of paranoia would make hackers able to arrange assasinations as well - simply corrupt an individual's data base and the JBTs will terminate him. Not a very nice society. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2015 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Instead of "fear", I would say "mistrust". He's not a known quantity so he will be treated sternly for a while.

If Joe is a US or EU citizen, his fingerprints have likely been recorded somewhere. As I expect all records to be digital by then and all paper records to become digital, just running his prints would be enough to establish identity. Once IDed, his retina would be scanned thus granting him an official identity. He will also need to provide a genetic sample. Maybe a psych evaluation too, depending on how things work then.

If he's not a citizen or prints can't be found then it will be a bit tougher but unless he shows dangerous qualities, he should be okay. They will just make him an identity.

A lot of people will want to talk to him about how he was magically transported forward in time.

Even with an official identity, life is going to be tough. Culture shock will take a while to adapt to. He may not have any useful skills that someone will want to employ him for. He won't have any money though this may not be a problem if there's something like a minimum guaranteed income.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 I want to ask about living the life in next question btw. Going step by step ;) $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2015 at 12:12

My guess would be to first let Joe know about the scanners somehow (maybe posters on walls, interactive displays, whatever).

Second, monitoring large masses of people in real-time would be difficult (i would monitor just the entry-points to crowded areas, like plazas), and deploy hover-bots for live tracking of subjects once detected...

He would be transported in the plaza, see the posters and hide his eyes somehow when bypassing security points... and then 'get the heck out of Dodge'. Security might be tight, but small shops and rural areas would have problems integrating fancy retinal scanners. Maybe have him get in touch with rogue hackers which can fool the scanners (maybe add him to the database somehow, or use retina-changing contact lenses -- that would be the latest in identity-theft of the time).

EDIT: Don't know about contacting the authorities... Joe might have a hard time explaining where he's been in the last 40 years and he might not show up in current databases (if he was declared missing or dead at the time of disappearance and they had a database update, not sure they would migrate the records of deceased people -- storage space is cheap, but why waste it?). It would depend a lot of the 'threat level'... if the last terrorist attacks were 30 years ago, he might have a chance to explain, but he would spend a lot of time explaining to a lot of agencies what happened (and unless your story is about bureaucracy, or integrate it in the plot to show current status of society -- as in Idiocracy, I would avoid it)


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