In 1982, Blade Runner captivated audiences with its technodystopian vision of the future. 40 years later, some of its predictions seem to be coming true.
With the rapid pace of technological advancements in the modern world, it seems that we are heading towards a real-life version of the dystopian society depicted in Blade Runner. Artificial Intelligence and robotics are becoming more advanced with each passing day, and it is not difficult to imagine a future where we might have to confront the same ethical dilemmas as the characters in the movie.
“Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced robot evolution into the NEXUS phase – a being virtually identical to a human known as a Replicant. … After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-World colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth – under penalty of death…This was not called execution. It was called retirement.” – opening text of “Blade Runner” (1982)
Ridley Scott’s cult classic film Blade Runner depicts a dystopian future created by humanity's unrestrained and chaotic development of new technologies.
The film explores the dangers, uncertainties, and moral and ethical ambiguities surrounding advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI). Blade Runner raises important questions about the role of AI in our society, and whether we are prepared to deal with the consequences of creating machines that are as intelligent, and even more intelligent than humans. The interactions between humans and the advanced androids known as Replicants portray a world where the line between real and fake people is inextricably blurred. Blade Runner questions what it fundamentally means to be human, following four Replicants who have returned to Earth to meet their maker.
Replicants, as their name suggests, are essentially AI systems given advanced bioengineered bodies designed to replicate the physical abilities and intellectual capacities of humans. However, the film suggests that the ethical implications of creating human-like robots are far-reaching and profound.
AI today consists of technologies like machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and computer vision, which can identify patterns and correlations to predict outcomes. However, experts are more concerned about the hidden black box workings of manipulative and prejudiced algorithms making decisions about our jobs, money, and freedom. Digital platforms sitting in moats of data give them the ability to manipulate what we buy or how we vote.
AI AND OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEM
These questions are interesting in understanding our relationships with technology and what it means to be human. The film questions whether AI should mimic human affection and emotion in their language. It raises important questions about the role of machines in our society, and whether we are prepared to deal with the consequences of creating machines that are as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than humans.
Although humanoid robots are unlikely in the foreseeable future, we need laws to deal with the consequences of the hidden black box algorithms that inform government and private sector decisions. For humans, there are many laws and regulations that exist for our protection – should we have the same laws for robots? It is important for us to consider these questions now, before the technology becomes too advanced and we are no longer in control of it.