Culture | Film
Things you wouldn’t believe
Science-fiction classic Blade Runner was set in 2019. How does its vision of an AI-driven future compare to our contemporary reality?
By Henrik Schoeneberg
The 1982 movie Blade Runner is widely regarded as the most important movie on the topic of artificial intelligence, or AI. It depicts a dystopian vision of Los Angeles in 2019. As we enter the year of Blade Runner while at the same time experiencing the dawn of the age of AI, we would be wise to heed the movie’s warnings. The negative consequences of AI are projected to be coming sooner than we prepared for. Some of these consequences are already part of our everyday lives.
The movie, based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, follows a special agent, or “blade runner”, as he comes out of retirement to find and “retire” bioengineered replicas of humans who have escaped their enslaved lives on a foreign planet, and who threaten to continue their uprising against their human overlords here on Earth. Events take place in a depressing metropolis devoid of trees and nature, where even the animals are artificial. As a result, this world has no shortage of available housing, because those who can have gone on to live elsewhere. This detachment between technological development and human happiness is reminiscent of the artificial online life that consumes modern humans. Many of us dream of, if not escaping, then interacting with the online sphere in greater moderation. Representative of this trend is the fact that the Cambridge Dictionary’s People’s Word of 2018 is “nomophobia”, the fear of being without one’s phone, as well as the rise of technological detox retreats where people immerse themselves in natural surroundings in order to escape the distractions of modern technology and find inner peace.
On the other hand, Rick Deckard, the blade runner, falls
New Humanist | Spring 2019