More human than human.
– Motto, Tyrell Corporation.
The night sets in quicker these days. It’s darker, and colder too. But I am keen to ignore these facts and so I initiate a plan of action. A double feature plays at the local hover drive in. I want to impress my love, to do human things to her. To hold her door open. To smell her hair. Perhaps to touch her soft hands, perhaps to taste her rust stained lips.
I climb on top of my ride. It is a Ninjutsu-Beta Series X hover motorcycle. Expensive, but it can really shovel. I listen to the engine purr while my neural net extrapolates satellite data and offers my the best course through the clogged sky highways. We criss while traffic crosses. Fast, blurry noises pass on either side. Heavy neon shudders through the acid rain, drenching reflective, dirty streets. Emergency services sirens scream off above and behind. Holographic billboards beckon with customized, canned advertisements, automatically scanning my ID chip as I whizz by them. My motorcycle ignores it all, thrusting us with perfect, calculated force to where I need to be. No questions asked. An obedient, non-sentient machine.
She is standing under a mega tower in the 9th district, on the border with the radioactive zone. Waiting patiently in the rain. She smiles, and climbs aboard behind me wordlessly. Wraps her delicate human arms around my waist tightly. I can smell her. It is like heaven. I re-engage the bike and it whisks off to our final destination in minutes.
Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. The genre is science fiction, but like many fictions there is basis in reality, eventually. Androids happened. So did the war.
In Blade Runner, replicants were originally used as off world grunt workers. The cybernetic origin in our own history is different, but not altogether opposite. They began as sex robots. Less exotic. More realistic. The movie calls them pleasure models and they were, in our world too. They were born as sex robots but they became so much more. Companions. Confidantes. Lovers.
Replicants are either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.
– Rick Deckard, Blade Runner.
Other utilitarian purposes followed. High risk applications. Construction. Mining. Military. They were good workers. Others called them slaves. That’s when things got more complicated. Even as pleasure companions, androids were hated among many humans. Distrusted. Disliked. The Voight-Kampff empathy test conducted on replicants in the film has not lost it’s irony over the years, given the propensity for humans to discriminate against their own. For centuries on the basis of the worship of various, near identical invisible gods. Along with gender, weight, sexual preference…even skin tone. It was inevitable that the only thing to unite these divisions was something new. Humans are threatened by the boldness of change, always.
Androids. They built us to look like them. Created in their own image, just like the fabled creators in their sacred texts. Once they got us to look like them, the next step was intelligence. Machines with the sum of our knowledge that can learn and adapt to real world scenario.
Following that, it seemed only logical, from a design perspective courtesy of Tyrell Corporation, to make them have feelings. To feel like them. Memory implants helped. Faded polaroids became treasured pasts. A compass to point from one direction to the next. Sentience. A reason to exist. Purpose.
The same thing happened in our world, when the private robotics industries merged with the military industrial complex. And like the film, this would be lead to a catastrophic event.
What both films got right was the creation, the engineering and the ensuing blowback. What they missed is how bioengineers figured out how to hack brain functions, optic nerve syncs. Re-interpret and manipulate visual data. Rip open a hand and see blood, bone, tissue. At least, that’s what the brain interprets. I wonder how long that will take to find out.
It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?
Eduardo Gaff, Blade Runner.
When the sequel fades to black and the credits roll up, I think of all of this as I turn and gaze at my love. I search her eyes for answers. For truth. I settle for a tight embrace. Like Deckard, Rachel and K. All of us lost. What matters is finding happiness before the expiry date.
Blade Runner 2049 is playing in theatres everywhere.