Blade Runner and being human.

Mike Filardi

Blade Runner is a great film, it can entertain and confront its audience with complex moral questions. One of these question asks what is it that makes us essentially human. Our status as human beings, as opposed to a machine or an android, is the basis of our identity. Being human means that we can think for ourselves, make choices, and are emotionally aware of the world around us. The movie presents this early on with the Voight-Kampff test used to determine replicants from humans, assuming that a replicant would not be able to make appropriate emotional responses to the scenarios presented to them the way a human would. It may not be possible to physically test if something is thinking for itself and exercising a free will, a machine follows programing after all, however the test can detect heart rate, eye movement, and other reactions to emotional stimuli that the test assumes could not be faked in real time due to the rapid-fire nature of the questions. The question that the movie apparently answers has been important to human thought long before computers and the idea of androids, many ancient philosophers tried to reason what made humans different from other animals, Plato for example concluded that our ability to reason was the answer.

Unlike Plato, the movie initially claims that our capacity for emotional empathy, not rationality, makes us different. As the movie goes on however, the ways that this takes effect is changed. Characters introduced as human, like Deckard and the inhabitants of Earth, are shown to be cold and detached from each other despite living in such a crowded place. On the other hand, the audience sees that the replicant characters are more than capable of having feelings. In the movie we see replicants empathize with each other and with non-replicants, particularly in the climax when we see the replicant Roy empathize with Deckard even as they are fighting. The movie’s triumph is that can offer a compelling argument that humanity is an identity that must be earned while also showing how important these questions still are.

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