Science Fiction Round 41: What’s Up With Blade Runner?
So, I finally got around to seeing Blade Runner over the holiday break. It’s a classic science fiction film, based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” so seeing it after the reference made to it in The Android’s Dream seems appropriate.
That said, I had less fun with this movie than I expected. So here goes.
I don’t get this. It sounds like they’re trying to do a combination of androids with genetic engineering. I’m also not sure what the point is of making robot-clone-things that are so human-like as to be nearly indistinguishable, while intending to use them as mere slave labor. Real robots that do stuff like that aren’t intelligent, and are optimized for the job — i.e., not humanoid.
Despite the fact that they bleed enough to be biological, they can be fried by “passing through an electrical field.” I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean. If they’re so biological that they can bleed, how does EMPing kill them? If they can be killed that way because they have computers-for-brains, why don’t they just run people through a metal detector to detect replicants instead of doing an emotions test? (Further, if you wanted robots, why didn’t you make them three-laws compliant? Oh, wait, right, you wanted to make assassin robots… because that can’t possibly go wrong.)
And then there are the toys that fall firmly into the uncanny valley. (They look like little miniature soldiers… and are extremely disturbing.) And then there’s giving the replicants a firm four-year lifespan to keep them from gaining enough memories to become more human.
Bottom line: Suuuuuuper creeeeeepy.
More Clever, Less Gore
I watched Alien, and I think this was worse — both in terms of sheer “ick” factor (although that may just be me) and the impact in general. (I note that both films were directed by Ridley Scott.)
Look, I realize you’re going for the eye scream, but you reeeeeally, really, don’t need to actually show the blood spurting out of his eyes while the other guy drives his thumbs into them. Ew. Couldn’t you go for showing the thumbs going in, then cut to some other image in the room, with the screaming? That would have made me a lot happier, thank you.
And the scene in Zahra’s dressing room? Really? As a highly-trained infiltrator, exotic dancer was the only employment option you could have her do? And that’s the only place that Deckard could possibly confront her… while she’s showering?? Pff.
There’s quite a bit of it in this show. There are vague hints that Deckard himself might be a replicant… maybe.
More of the gray is about what should be done with the replicants, how they rebel against the humans, and what makes someone human. That’s fairly interesting.
On the other hand, Deckard is supposed to be a nice guy… and then he assaults Rachael. And… I’m just going to stop there, because I hated that part. It makes it a lot harder to root for the hero when he does stuff like that.
Where Are The Farmers?
This is a setting where stuff is so messed up that most animals are the products of “genetic design” — artificial snakes and owls are the norm, and “real” ones are expensive or impossible to obtain.
This, of course, leads to the entirely tangential question: where is all the food coming from? All we see throughout the film is mile after mile of industrial landscape. There isn’t a tree to be seen anywhere, much less a garden or farm.
It’s likely we’re just seeing a snapshot of the overall landscape, and not any of the surrounding territory, which would be at odds with the cityscape that matches the film’s themes. However, the increased population that the film seems to imply (including constant recruitment for off-world colonies) would imply that even more farming would be necessary.
Rough estimates I found on the Internet suggest that about 1 acre is necessary per person to sustain a typical American diet, and less if the amount of meat is reduced (perhaps due to a lack of availability of real animals). According to the EPA, the US has a bit more than 900 million acres of cropland (and, I will note, is a major exporter of food). So, in terms of self-support, it’d definitely possible to wipe out a bunch of cropland with more skyscrapers and still feed most of the people here.
Nonetheless, if there’s more US citizens and less cropland in general, that likely does not bode well for the areas of the world that are, in the present day, significantly reliant on US food exports. It makes me wonder what the economy of the rest of the world looks like in this setting.