Big questions about the basic premise of The Institute: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

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The Walkin Dudemar

Active Member
Jul 17, 2012

I am very confused about the reasoning behind the operation of The Institute.

So here is what I understood:

The Institute protects the world from apocalyptic threats. It does this with the aid of persons gifted with precognition who identify people who present future threats to world peace. These precognitive persons are kept in a safe location and well-treated. Once the precognitives identify a threat, the target is assassinated psychically.

The means of assassination are this: The Institute sends out hit-squads of highly-trained professional killers to abduct children with telekinesis and/or telepathy. In the course of this, the parents and any other family members in the home are murdered. (I am assuming that this is the standard operating procedure, as none of the children we met were simply abducted off the street or lured away online, etc. All had their families murdered in home invasions.)

The children are then subjected to a tortuous regimen of drugs, physical abuse and brainwashing intended to boost and harness their psychic powers and use them to murder the identified threats to the survival of the world.

Sadly, the process destroys the minds of the kids and kills them in the end. However, this sacrifice of thousands of psychic children and their immediate families has saved the world from about 500 potentially apocalyptic incidents.

Now for my questions:

Why would this organization, dedicated to the preservation of humanity on earth operate like that? If they are that concerned with humanity, why not use this rare variety of human in a more positive way?

And why carry out the morally and ethically repugnant act of abducting kids, murdering the parents and eventually killing the children when you have access to hit-squads of highly-trained professional killers?

The Institute operates all around the world. They have vast resources to draw upon. They can identify psychic children at birth and track them throughout their lives. Their hit squads are proficient killers trained in espionage, infiltration, and assassination. They are guided by precognitives who could tell them the targets’ every moves. They could easily make the deaths look like accidents or illnesses or the work of random criminals.

Yet, after the rebellion of the children, Agent Smith says that even though they still have the precognitives, they have basically given up the whole program and the world is now on suicide watch because there is no way to eliminate any more threats without the kids... Nobody even considered continuing to take out threats by using the hit squads. Nah… Let the Earth die, it’s out of our hands, now…

Yet they didn't even need the psychic children at all, if you think about it.

Of course, using the children to kill the targets was guaranteed to be undetected as they operated at a great distance. However; there had been only 500 assassinations at a cost of thousands of children, each with at least one parent killed.

That’s thousands of unexplained home invasions, murders and abductions of kids; an epidemic! And nobody saw a pattern and questioned this?

If you imagine ‘thousands’ of psychic kids to be the modest figure of 4 thousand and imagine there were on average 3 additional family members each (2 parents, 1 sibling) that alone is 4,000 unsolved home invasions, 12,000 unsolved murders and 4,000+ (some are twins) unsolved child abductions of kids who are never, ever found.

Is that less likely to arouse suspicion than a mere 500 assassinations, many of which would be people who were not yet in positions of notoriety and power, or if they were, likely had many assorted people who wanted them dead?

Is there any other reason for this other than that the concept of ‘tortured psychic kids forced to kill’ promised lots of drama and pathos, and SK neglected to think it all through?

He should have just made the kids the precognitives, taken in non-violent, off-the-street abductions, and tortured to activate their powers to identify the potential threats. Then the Institute hit-teams go out to neutralize the threats. If he’d done it that way, the kids would have been genuinely essential to the process and I never would have questioned the premise.

Someone else I posed this question to said that all this was deliberately written to highlight the stupidity and hubris and waste of Government bureaucracies, and while that interpretation is certainly possible, I do not really think it was intended. It's never articulated by any of the characters, which one would expect in a mass-audience novel.

I honestly do not think we were intended to see the program as being pointless and illogically carried out; horrible and inhuman, yes, but for the face value of the crimes against the kids, and not as a grim joke about Government waste.


Well-Known Member
Mar 9, 2018
The way the elite hit squads were taken out leaves me to believe they weren't so elite. That and there seem to be only 2 that had to travel the entire USA was probably not cost effective. Add this to the fact that hit squads are messy.
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