Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult science fiction classic, Blade Runner, has received both acclaim and criticism for its debatable vision of the future. Set in a 2019 post nuclear war Los Angles, this dark, decaying, futuristic world is home to the remaining humans of earth as the more privileged have fled to bountiful off world colonies. Enslaved Androids (called replicants), manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation, are charged with the tedious and dangerous tasks of fighting for and building these colonies and are outlawed from earth. The story follows Rick Deckard, a blade runner who is responsible for hunting down a dangerous group of six next generation replicants who escape to earth. On the surface, Blade Runner seems like sci-fi private eye story meant only to dazzle the eye with its technological cityscapes and fascinating gadgets. However, as we follow Deckard on his mission, a serious critique of moral, corporate and technological trends of the past and present emerges. Scott’s Blade Runner is stomach-churning vision of what those trends can potentially lead to.
In the world of Blade Runner, the line between technology and humanity is continuously blurred, representing the increasing presence and pervasiveness of technology in the 1980’s. This is the most evident of Ridley Scott’s exaggerations of 1980’s trends. The director presents a world in which everything is wired and technology is an inescapable part of everyone’s lives. Inhabitants are constantly bombarded with an overload of neon lights and sounds. Kevin Telfer explains that Blade Runner “Exaggerates the presence of the mass-media, evoking sensations of unreality and pervasive spectacle.” This horrific image of the future serves as a manifestation of the fears of people about the increasing role of technology in everyday life. In 1981 IBM released its first home computer with Apple following shortly in 1983. Made with graphical user interfaces, they turned from inaccessible to ubiquitous machines that could be used in every day life. This marked the beginning of technological dependence and allowed the sharing of information to increase drastically in volume and speed. The constant presence and use of technology in Blade Runner distinctly reflects the genesis of that trend. The replicants further emphasize this notion of technology becoming inseparable part of humanity. They are made to be indistinguishable from humans in every way, even developing complex emotional responses. The only way of identifying them is through the use of the ESP machine, a machine that bears striking similarities with a personal computer of the time. A replicant is symbol for the hybrid nature of 1980’s culture - a cyborg culture. In his essay, Kevin Telfer draws on the following conclusion described by Harraway: “The distinction between cyborg and human is not to be based upon ideas of embodiment of technological and biological hybridity but rather through the notion of an interaction with technology that leads consciousness into strategies contingent upon it.”
It is clear that the world of Blade Runner requires consciousness to be dictated by technology. This corporation has given birth to a superior kind of being that will ultimately render humanity obsolete. The fear of being replaced and forgotten drives the natural disdain for and persecution of replicants on earth and dictates consciousness. In order to maintain control over this pinnacle achievement of technological advancement, replicants are enslaved to do tedious or dangerous work that humans cannot or will not perform. The purpose for their existence is to simply facilitate ours. But regardless of their function, their mere existence and limitless potential make them a frightening concept to perceive. The parallel can be drawn again as computers are used as tools for everyday menial tasks and can...