At stake in our recent array of movies and essays (certainly in Blade Runner) is a question of what it is to be human. Moreover, when we apply it to a broader sense, we develop our ideas of life and beings interacting.
Where do the power relationships go when the traditional criteria fall apart?
When we are forced to confront our prejudiced methods for naming and seeing ourselves, we shall be forced to change. As in the past, with the Emancipation Proclamation and various liberation movements that forced the issue of gender and race, the dominant paradigm was confronted with a new way of seeing, a new technique of self evaluation that transformed our world. Guessing at the current state of transition (for it seems that all we can do while stuck in the middle of our patch of history is guess), we can judge that our technological growth has led us to a sense of our bodies that alienates artificial means of developing it further. The android and the blurry line that gets drawn between humanity and the automations it creates rely more and more upon the visual prescence of what we currently recognize as machinery. Blade Runner shows us how artificial and ill constructed these criteria are. The movie develops the idea, among others, that so long as we can eliminate any kind of visual or obvious behavioral difference, we have humanized the subject appropriately.
Certainly, as Ian Jones points out in his essay, about memories, consciousness plays a large part in such an concept of humanization. Using Blade Runner as an taste of things to come, an entirely new genre of interpersonal relationships and power dynamics springs into being when the resources and skills of nonhumans exceeds those of humanity. Perhaps, as in Blade Runner, humanity will mantain a tenuous balance, allowing itself to stem the oncoming tide of nonhuman power as it develops; or will it allow itself and its ideas to drift, and develop into something larger than the smaller circle from which it came.
[To other discussions of this topic by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]