Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts

Artificial Intelligence - How Has The Blade Runner (1982) Film Envisioned AI Androids?

 



Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip Dick was first published in 1968 and is set in post-industrial San Francisco in the year 2020.

In 1982, the book was renamed Blade Runner for a cinematic adaption set in Los Angeles in the year 2019.

While the texts vary significantly, both recount the narrative of bounty hunter Rick Deckard, who is entrusted with locating (and executing) escaping replicants/androids (six in the novel, four in the film).

The setting for both novels is a future in which cities have grown overcrowded and polluted.

Natural nonhuman life has virtually vanished (due to radiation sickness) and been replaced by synthetic and artificial life.

Natural life has become a valued commodity in the future.

Replicants are meant to perform a variety of industrial functions in this environment, most notably as labor for off-world colonies.

The replicants are an exploited race that was created to serve human masters.

When they are no longer useful, they are discarded, and when they struggle against their circumstances, they are retired.

Blade runners are specialist law enforcement operatives tasked with apprehending and killing renegade replicants.

Rick Deckard, a former Blade Runner, returns from retirement to track down the sophisticated Nexus-6 replicant models.

These replicants have escaped to Earth after rebelling against the slave-like conditions on Mars.

In both texts, the treatment of artificial intelligence serves as an implicit critique of capitalism.

The Rosen Association in the book and the Tyrell Corporation in the film develop replicants to create a more docile labor, implying that capitalism converts people into robots.

Eldon Rosen (who is called Tyrell in the film) emphasizes these obnoxious commercial imperatives: "We provided what the colonists wanted...." Every commercial venture is founded on a time-honored principle.

Other corporations would have developed these progressive more human kinds if our company hadn't." 

There are two types of replicants in the movie: those who are designed to be unaware that they are androids and are filled with implanted memories (like Rachael Tyrell), and those who are aware that they are androids and live by that knowledge (the Nexus-6 fugitives).

Rachael in the film is a new Nexus-7 model that has been implanted with the memories of Eldon Tyrell's niece, Lilith. Deckard is sent to murder her, but instead falls in love with her. The two depart the city together at the conclusion of the film.

Rachael's character is handled differently in the book.

Deckard makes an effort to recruit Rachael's assistance in locating the runaway androids. Rachael agrees to meet Deckard in a hotel room in the hopes of persuading him to drop the case.

Rachael explains during their encounter that one of the runaway androids (Pris Stratton) is a carbon copy of her (making Rachael a Nexus-6 model in the novel).

Deckard and Rachael actually have sex and profess their love for each other.

Rachael, on the other hand, is discovered to have slept with other blade runners.

She is designed to do just that in order to keep them from fulfilling their tasks.

Deckard threatens to murder Rachael but decides to leave the hotel rather than carry out his threat.

The replicants are undetectable in both the literature and the movies.

Even under a microscope, they seem to be totally human.

The Voigt-Kampff test, which separates humans from androids based on emotional reactions to a variety of questions, is the sole method to identify them.

The exam is conducted with the use of a machine that monitors blush reaction, heart rate, and eye movement in response to empathy-related questions.

Deckard's identity as a human or a replicant is unknown at this time.

Rachael even inquires as to whether he has completed the Voigt-Kampff exam.

In the movie, Deckard's position is unclear.

Despite the fact that the audience is free to make their own choice, filmmaker Ridley Scott has hinted that Deckard is a replicant.

Deckard takes and passes the exam at the conclusion of the book, although he starts to doubt the effectiveness of blade running.

More than the movie, the book explores what it means to be human in the face of technological advancements.

The book depicts the fragility of the human experience and how it can be easily harmed by the technology that is supposed to help it.

Individuals with Penfield mood organs, for example, can use them to control their emotions.

All that is required is for a person to look up an emotion in a manual, dial the appropriate number, and then experience whatever emotion they desire.

The device's usage and the generation of artificial sensations implies that people may become robotic, as Deckard's wife Iran points out: My first response was to express gratitude for the fact that we could afford a Penfield mood organ.

But then I understood how harmful it was to sense the lack of vitality everywhere, not only in this building - do you know what I mean? I'm assuming you don't.

That, however, was formerly thought to be an indication of mental disease, referred to as "lack of proper emotion." The argument made by Dick is that the mood organ inhibits humans from feeling the right emotional elements of life, which is precisely what the Voigt-Kampff test reveals replicants are incapable of.

Philip Dick was known for his hazy and maybe gloomy vision of artificial intelligence.

His androids and robots are distinctly ambiguous.

They desire to be like humans, yet they lack empathy and emotions.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is heavily influenced by this uncertainty, which also appears onscreen in Blade Runner.


~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.



See also: 

Nonhuman Rights and Personhood; Pathetic Fallacy; Turing Test.


Further Reading


Brammer, Rebekah. 2018. “Welcome to the Machine: Artificial Intelligence on Screen.” Screen Education 90 (September): 38–45.

Fitting, Peter. 1987. “Futurecop: The Neutralization of Revolt in Blade Runner.” Science Fiction Studies 14, no. 3: 340–54.

Sammon, Paul S. 2017. Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. New York: Dey Street Books.

Wheale, Nigel. 1991. “Recognising a ‘Human-Thing’: Cyborgs, Robots, and Replicants in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.” Critical Survey 3, no. 3: 297–304.




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