Movie Quote Monday – Blade Runner
I recently saw Blade Runner for the first time:
In the future (2019, haha) a company has “advanced Robot evolution” to the point of being virtually indistinguishable from humans. These robots have super strength, naturally, and “at least equal” intelligence to their creators. And so of course they are used as slaves off-planet to do probably crappy and definitely dangerous work that humans don’t want to do.
In a big surprise to everyone, six of these “Replicants” mutiny, kill 23 humans and jump a shuttle back to Earth. Replicants “were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions.” It was estimated that after a few years they would start developing their own emotional responses, and so they were built with a four-year life span. These six Replicants have come back to Earth in search of a way to extend their lives.
It was pretty thought-provoking, and the first thing I considered was how many books and movies include robots or computers that have jumped the gap from being purely machine to having self-awareness. Some humans (at least in the fictional world) have a burning need to create sentient life by non-biological means, and I find that interesting. Why is this theme so pervasive in fiction? Why are we so fascinated with that idea?
Why, if this is a wide-spread fantasy and we can write stories in any way we want, does it almost always turn out to be humanity’s doom? Or at the least rather deadly.
Of course if a robot has self-awareness, but not compassion or empathy – you know, the kinds of things you develop when you have a childhood – then that would maybe not be a great thing.
Beyond that, it seems rather cruel to purposely create a being to have human emotions and then discount that being’s “humanity”, abusing it as though it were merely a machine.
At the end of the movie, the main Replicant antagonist laments his own death:
Roy: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those…moments will be lost…in time…like…tears…in rain.
That seems pretty human to me – not wanting to lose your thoughts and memories, not wanting to let go of your experiences. Those are the things that build upon one another and help make you who you are, but once we’re gone, our own personal involvement in the world melts into a collective memory. Our uniqueness is lost in the downpour of human history.
So my question is, is it wrong for a conscious being to do whatever it has to do to protect its own existence?
Exactly what constitutes “life” for these artificial humans? And then to what extent is society responsible for protecting that life?
Who was really the monster: Frankenstein or the creature he brought into being?