The Blade Runner Prophecies

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

— The late Rutger Hauer, as replicant
Roy Batty, in Blade Runner (1982)

I’ve been waiting for years to write this piece, at this moment…

And all along, I’d been naïve enough to hope that I might be the only one to do it, or at least one of just a handful.

However, given the significance of this particular month to a once-small, but now ever-growing cult (for lack of a better word) of natural-born humans

That’s proven to be as much of a dream-world delusion as an electric sheep.

If you don’t know what the hell any of that even means, you’re clearly not a die-hard Blade Runner fan.

Considered by many (myself included) to be the greatest science fiction movie ever made, Blade Runner has been ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 movies of the last century — across all genres…

And as you may have guessed, this groundbreaking film is set in November 2019.

To my chagrin, lots of ink has indeed been spilled about this flick over the last few weeks, even in such mainstream fare as Newsweek and the New York Post.

But in keeping with the increasingly shallow, 140-character mentality most of today’s culture writers seem to be catering to (or afflicted by)…

Much of what’s been written about Blade Runner this month is glib musings about flying cars and other tech stuff from the movie that hasn’t yet come to fruition.

What they all seem to be missing, though, is the big stuff it gets dead right.

That’s my point with this piece.

But to get the full effect, you’ll need to know at least the basics of Blade Runner…

So I’ll start with a brief rundown of the film to bring you up to speed.

A fictional future that’s not too distant in truth

Blade Runner was released in 1982, and is loosely based on Phillip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The film is set in the Los Angeles of this year — portrayed in the film as a dark, dirty, and chaotically diverse city of 106 million people.

At its heart, Blade Runner is a sci-fi “tech noir” cop drama. It’s basically a futuristic, dystopian take on a Raymond Chandler storyline, if you can imagine that.

The “hero,” Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford, during his meteoric rise to stardom) is a special kind of assassin cop tasked with tracking down and killing bio-engineered beings called replicants.

Organic in every way, and totally indistinguishable from naturally bred humans except through complex psychological tests involving emotional responses…

Replicants are used for combat, labor, or other dangerous work on far-flung galactic colonies. As such, they’re designed to be stronger, tougher, faster — and at least as smart as the biological engineers who made them.

After a bloody replicant uprising, they’re banned on Earth, under penalty of death. No due process, no trial, no nothing. Just a bullet, immediately upon detection.

In the movie, this is called retirement, not execution.

As another fail-safe against rogue replicant rebellions, the latest models have been biologically engineered to have a life span of only around four years…

The thing is, some of them are aware of this fact, and are very pissed off about it.

The core plotline involves a quartet of such replicants who come back to Earth in an attempt to infiltrate the company that made them, the Tyrell Corporation.

Their goal: To extend their own lives — by any means necessary, including murder.

The thing I love about Blade Runner, and one of the reasons I believe the film has gotten more popular over time (it actually wasn’t a big box office hit)…

Is the fact that it transcends mere entertainment, to become a surprisingly insightful and predictive commentary on where we’re headed as a society and world.

Cases in point:

Powerful, above-the-law tech mega-firms — In the film, the Tyrell Corporation openly flouts the law by continuing to keep replicants on Earth. When Deckard comes to their headquarters to question company founder Dr. Eldon Tyrell, he’s presented with a new-generation replicant (Rachael) to test his detection system…

I see shades of this sort of above-the-law, you’re too-stupid-to-understand impunity when I watch Big Tech bigwigs dodging questions before Congress, and being coyly evasive about how they’re using our data, manipulating search results, marketing to us, subtly steering our thoughts and opinions, etc.

Genetic engineering run amuck — One of the characters in Blade Runner, who works as a genetic designer of replicants (J.F. Sebastian), creates humanoid beings to his own abnormal specifications to keep as pets, for his personal amusement…

Today, we’re seeing embryonic selection for sex, and also for disabilities. Not just for the prevention of defects, mind you, but also their creation. In other words, a certain number of would-be IVF parents (around 3%, according to one study) who employ certain genetic screening technologies are selecting embryos for implantation that have a greater likelihood of certain disabilities, like deafness, for example.

The internationalization of American culture — to the point where the country itself seems to have no distinct identity anymore. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the American flag does not appear at all in Blade Runner, anywhere…

And if the giant, floating billboards are any indication, LA has become largely Asian in its demographic composition. The English language is not universally spoken, either. At street level, the lingo (called “cityspeak” in the original version of the film) is a mish-mosh of Japanese, Spanish, English, German, and others.

Stark divisions between rich and poor — In the Blade Runner world, the “haves” of society (which includes cops, judging by Deckard’s flat) all seem to live on the upper floors of secure, relatively clean and modern buildings, while the “have nots” and social outcasts occupy old, moldering, dilapidated structures that have been decaying since the 1900s, or on the filthy, trash-covered streets themselves…

Looking around modern-day LA and San Francisco, which are increasingly choked with garbage, debris, and permanent homeless residents (while also extracting some of the highest real estate prices in the nation from the moneyed class), it seems like this division is already taking hold, doesn’t it?

Government overreach (especially by the police) — Deckard is given no choice but to come out of retirement to take on these four dangerous replicants, his former chief warning him, “You know the score, pal. If you’re not cops, you’re little people,” implying serious punishment from the system for refusing…

So clearly, cops are not only part of the privileged class, but also a powerful class unto themselves. And they have full authority under the law to serve as judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to replicants, regardless of the fact that they’re identical to humans, or the fact that a human could easily be “retired” by mistake.

We’re not quite there yet, obviously. But we are in a place where the police are more and more militarized with every passing day…

And arguably, more and more edgy — not that I can blame them, with all the hate raining down on them lately on a lot of American streets.

I could go on and on with this stuff, too…

If there were any money in it, I’d write a book on the “Blade Runner effect” — about how this movie becomes more accurate and true with every passing year.

But my allotted word-count is getting tight here, so I’ll wrap up with this last over-arching thought…

The future’s biggest question: What makes a human?

For me, the incisive, poignant, and more than a little disconcerting core appeal of Blade Runner lies in its exploration of what it means to be human.

In the film — specifically in the narrated version that originally ran in theaters, if I recall correctly…

It’s implied that the reason Deckard quit the blade runner squad in the first place was because he was conflicted about killing replicants, for their seeming humanity.

That’s why the movie’s ending (which I won’t give away here) is so incredibly powerful, and so increasingly relevant in this day age.

Because even though we don’t yet have fully bio-engineered, lab-grown humanoids for hard labor, dangerous jobs, or combat — on this world or off it…

They’re clearly the next logical step beyond the AI, robots, and learning algorithms that are in use and development today.

In fact, in Blade Runner’s prologue, it’s clearly stated that the Tyrell Corporation developed replicants as an advanced stage of robot evolution.

My point is that even now, the lines between man and machine, between natural and genetically enhanced, and between the artificial and the real are being blurred…

And they’re getting more hazy with every passing day.

There are nations in the world right now that grant robots citizenship…

Research has shown that they’re capable of developing their own prejudices…

We’re on the cusp of having fully-functioning robots for companionship and sex…

And in an age in which exponentially advancing technology is increasingly outpacing policy and law, the ethical debate about whether robots have rights in in full swing.

I don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty human to me.

And it’s just one of the incredible things about our present age (and our future) that was predicted in the prophetic Blade Runner — a brilliant film that gets more poignant and more relevant with every passing year.

Bottom line: If you want to see the “macro” picture of where America is headed, sooner or later…

You need only look to Blade Runner.

When you do, you’ll see much more clearly how the culture as we know it — and humanity as we know it — is getting lost in time, like tears in rain.

Apprehensively Yours,

Jim Amrhein

Jim Amrhein
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
WhiskeyAndGunpowderFeedback@StPaulResearch.com

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Jim Amrhein

Just like he was 15 years ago, when first he sullied the pages of the original Whiskey & Gunpowder e-Letter and various other forums, Jim is still ornery, opinionated, politically incorrect, and shamelessly patriotic. He’s also more convinced than ever before that government can’t do much of anything right — except expand in scope and...

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