When I watched the original Blade Runner back in my early 20s the movie seemed boring, slow, and overall unentertaining. What was the big deal? I re-visited the movie recently in my mid 30s and it fully blew my socks off. The movie is about emotional intelligence and empathy and what makes a human in terms of how they emotionally react to something. The basis of the movie is a detective story where a “Blade Runner,” Harrison Ford’s character, is hunting to shut down or kill artificial intelligent robots, called replicants, who mimic humans so well that only under a strict emotional intelligence and reaction test can they be deemed human or not. The movie is a philosophical juggernaut about what it means to be human and what is considered to be “normal” emotion.
It quickly becomes apparent that the fine line between the emotional intelligence of humans and replicants becomes blurred. The replicants seem to display identical characteristics as humans in regard to emotion as the humans who are supposedly advanced in their emotional intelligence. The movie has amazing scenes and descriptions of what is considered a “normal” emotional reaction whether it comes from the emotionally incapable replicants or the withdrawn and emotional unintelligent human in Deckard (Ford’s character). In the end, there doesn’t seem to be a real difference and one is left questioning if everyone in the movie is in fact replicants that have been created by whatever agency that has implanted memories or body parts in their bodies.
The movie showcases the replicants as machines that were created as adults with no memories and, as a result, behave like emotionally unintelligent children. It is obvious in some scenes but then not so much in others as one starts to wonder if in fact that not all adults are in fact just big kids, regardless if they have the supposed experience that makes them emotionally intelligent. This brought up big questions for me as I can’t help but think that even though the movie was made over 30 years ago it’s showcasing current problems we are dealing with in our modern society regarding lack of emotional connection and intelligence. The artificial intelligence in our devices seems to be having a negative effect on these levels of intelligence and connection creating a constant distraction with produces a lack of insight and emotional maturity with people’s ability to be self-aware, connect with others, or pursue the help and therapy needed to acquire these traits. As a result, it has taken over and kept more people at the emotional levels of children. These problems seem to be all too common and at epidemic levels, but then again, who am I to say what is considered emotionally intelligent as if somehow I display any type of model or am more evolved, etc? What does it really mean if one person is a certain way in a sea of what everything else is? Who is “normal,” what is considered evolved or not, and does it even matter?
It’s hard to not look at our current president in Trump and not conclude that such a person who displays a 12-year-olds emotional intelligence is on the rise and all too common. Where and when did that start? Has such patterning been around for all of eternity or am I correct in thinking that modern culture in the U.S. has devolved in a sense in regard to emotional intelligence? The movie which was originally shot in 1981 has future dates in it of 2019 which is the year it is now. It seems all too true for what is going on today for what we as a society are confronting in terms of astounding levels of narcissism and psycho/sociopathic behavior seeming to be all encompassing in relations between humans. Has replicant culture already taken over and now that represents being “more human than human?” Is a higher level of emotional intelligence a thing of the past or is it now just different, but overall really just the same thing as has always happened as we have progressed in evolution? Some traits leave, some stay and maybe emotional intelligence isn’t important after all. Does this all even matter in the grand scheme of whatever humans are as we progress and are labeling people as A.I.(artificial intelligence)/Robots or not?
One character in particular captures my attention in this moment. This character is Rachael who is the newest model of a replicant. She doesn’t know she is a replicant and always been told she is human and has even been implanted with memories which up until this point has been proof that one is actually human. Eventually Deckard informs her that she is a replicant and the memories that she has are someone else’s. She then runs away from her home and life and has no idea what to think of herself as there is confusion that disrupts her whole reality about what is authentically hers in her body, mind, and life. Is she just a meaningless and being-less entity that is a merely a “product” living out the personality and memories and experiences of someone else? It is quite the “normal” human existential crisis in how it comes across. Not unlike what a teenager goes through or someone going through a mid-life crisis at any age where they wonder who they are in relation to the universe and if it means or should mean anything?
The question that entered my mind upon watching this unravel was, “Does it even matter?” So what if you’ve been implanted with the memories and life experiences of another? How does that change your reality if you knew or didn’t know? Rachael has been given a source for her existence and ego, vs all the rest of us humans who have not, but still have an ego, yet, we obsessively come up with theories, ideals, religions, philosophies for needing to know the ‘what’ and ‘why’ for making sense of whatever that source is. We think and struggle with the idea that we are not the center of the universe, or why have we been given this perspective if we are in fact not? There is a collective consciousness that many of us strive for where we need to grasp at in regard to knowing that something bigger than ourselves exists. Allowing that to exist is where much peace comes from. We have memories, we have the past, and we think that has shaped us in some unique way. It has obviously, but how is it any less or more unique or meaningful than someone who knows they have implanted memories, yet is still living in the same day to day way with perceived free will just like the rest of us? There is a lot of research out there that says when we draw upon our memories at a later date they become more fictitiousness vs anything “true.” We then give meaning and make expectations, assumptions and decisions about our lives with this perceived truth when in fact there seems to be no such thing as any level of truth. The only truth that seems true is in fact this ‘untruth’ about all things, but, we still have lives to live on the ground within this reality, which in the meantime make it convenient to believe in all sorts of things in order to try and be happy. With all this being the case and it not really mattering what our perceived reality is, what is really the difference if we have artificial memories or not?
Whenever artificial intelligence ideas and discussions come up I wonder at what really artificial intelligence is? If we agree that everything on the Earth is nature interacting with other nature then if we humans are nature and then create “artificial” things, then isn’t that nature as well? We can criticize algorithms and the higher intelligence based on them like social media profiles or robots or whatever but are not our minds and bodies just an algorithm that was created by nature over hundreds of thousands of years to function in a certain way? How does a baby know how to reach for and suckle on a nipple for food? Some implanted nature algorithm has created that to happen over the eons. The difference now is that in the last twenty years or so, with the invention of the internet and thus AI, those two decades saw the same growth as what before took a millennium to accomplish. Nature with the elements and the natural checks and balances of all sorts of animals created those algorithms for patterns of existence to emerge to support life and intelligence for staying alive. We are no different than plants learning to grow as efficiently as possible towards the sun and water. Now it’s happening through the medium of nature but through humans and what they’re creating.
Blade Runner was a movie originally made about the future. Right now, the movie in its present year of 2019, is an amazing ironic portrayal of the discussion going on about what is considered human and the confusion present in our society about what role emotions play and if that is something to be considered important or desired. Is it relevant or important to be “human” anymore? Are there standards that can be used to create whether or not we are human in an age that is perhaps seeing exponential change in what humans are with increased losses of old ways of thinking and doing in regards to consciousness, emotional intelligence, empathy, overall emotional reaction, etc.? Does it even matter if other forms of something altogether different like “non-emotional” intelligence takes over, but is rather just emotional intelligence expressed differently than before? Evolution is something after all that just happens. As more years pass, Blade Runner which was originally a movie created about the future will be actually about the past, and it will then take on a different meaning as perhaps a turning point in human history where these differences took over and a recording of sorts in film showed the evolution of where we were at and what we were struggling and dealing with in terms of evolution and what it meant to be human.