Blade Runner: More Human than Human

Where cyberpunk fiction and popular film converged most impressively was in Ridley Scott’s 1982 film noir classic, Blade Runner (Deeley et al., 1982). The film features a sparse plot set in Los Angeles of the near-future, a site where “replicants” have escaped an “off-world colony” to seek their maker, Dr. Eldon Tyrell. Although his corporation’s motto is “More human than human,” Tyrell’s replicants are hobbled by a 4-year life span. The film, with its gritty depiction of near-future urban life, focuses on a somewhat pedestrian series of chases and close encounters as Rick Deckard, the Blade Runner, is dispatched to “retire” the replicants. However, the film gains significance when one of these machine-humans, Roy Batty, confronts Tyrell.

Tyrell: I’m surprised you didn’t come here sooner.
Roy: It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Tyrell: What could he do for you?
Roy: Can the maker repair what he makes?

As the movie settles into its inevitable struggle between the replicant and the Blade Runner, the plot careens toward an unexpected outcome: Perhaps Deckard himself is a replicant—the ultimate shadow identity. The notion of machines stalking machines in a world in which most humans could easily be confused for animals may not be so far-fetched. Davis (1999) described the “high-tech police death squads” of 2029 Los Angeles as “not fantasies, but merely extrapolations from the present” (p. 155). But the most troubling question for humanity remains:

Rachael: “Have you ever retired a human by mistake?”
Deckard: “No.”
Rachael: “But in your position that is a risk, isn’t it?”

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, challenges the viewer to confront a society in which machines and people have blurred to such an extent that neither can truly be considered human by traditional standards.