Sunday, February 27, 2011


In Blade Runner, the difference between humans and androids is minute. The androids have a shelf life of four years, after that they are removed from existence. They have served their owners and succeeded in completing/working on a project. Their existence is centered on their ability to work as slave labor and have an expiration date to avoid the disastrous consequences that befell other science fiction characters. But the differences between human and machine are played out in Blade Runner. If emotions and memories can be manipulated and constructed, where does the distinction fall? These robots have memories that to them seem as real as our own. They have emotional responses to stimuli around them. And they have an expiration date, just like humans. This idea has implications for the director's interpretation of human life. The robots have a predestined, predetermined life span that is unyielding and controlled. They understand their limitations and live out their existence accordingly. Most of us believe that our lives are totally controlled by our own actions. We typically reject the notion that a creator, even before we have lived our life, has determined a day and time of our demise. That we live our life to work for an ultimate goal, and when we are no longer useful or have completed our job, our time on Earth is up. This is a simplified version and summary of determinism, which claims that all of time has been predestined and that we have no control over our lives. This is the life of the machine in Blade Runner, which clearly serves as a metaphor for the lives of humans.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the observation that the replicants in Blade Runner had few distinctions with actual humans. I found it hard to differentiate them when the film depicted them loving, crying, laughing and fighting to survive. All of these small things show their true capacity to develop emotions, (and as we later learn, even replicated memories). While the instinct to survive may also be a machine-like, it was more touching to me that the replicants seemed to have a more sophisticated comprehension of their mortality. They sought not just to survive, but to lead lives outside of their 4 year death sentence. As soon as something has the ability to feel pain and to love-to feel a sense of empathy for another being-I think this conscience gives them the right to be treated humanely. I won't say these qualities are 'human', because in Blade Runner these qualities can be manufactured. If artificial intelligence ever reached the levels shown in the movie then the cyborgs created would merit the treatment we would give any other life form with this emotive intelligence. But, as history has shown us countless times, when have we ever treated even our fellow humans with the kindness they deserve?