Replicant: a bioengineered slave race used in the Off-world colonies. The material incentive to leave Earth and begin life again. A key to rebirth, an escape from decay, martyrs for an unknown cause.

Blade Runner is a story about slavery, human identity, and the nature of reality. Replicants may represent one side of the human psyche, our attachment to memory. They are the twenty-first-century fear of eugenics, future shock, a distopian regressions into a used-up world.

One is struck by the overwhelming force of symbolism within this film. The reoccuring focus on the eye plays off the saying that this organ is the window to the soul --the big question is whether this applies to one that has been engineered. What makes a being human, what imparts empathy?

Deckard plays the ambiguous human, one clearly bereft of emotional clarity, one capable of gunning down an innocent sentient with little remorse. There are indications that he is a replicant himself, though there was apparently much disagreement between actor and director. Deckard has memories, photographs, yet so do the other Nexus replicants. How much of a difference does the hardware make? And what does it mean to be "more than human"? This is question that will later be addressed in such novels as Rudy Rucker's Software. It is a matter of evolution, but also of spiritual / metaphysical growth (Phil K. Dick certainly saw it that way).




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. The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them.

Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets.

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. Special police squads -- BLADE RUNNER UNITS -- had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicants.

This was not called execution. It was called retirement.

[Introductory text to the film Blade Runner.]





INCEPT DATE: 8 Jan, 2016

FUNCTION: Combat, Colonization Defense Prog




INCEPT DATE: 14 Feb, 2016

FUNCTION: Military/leisure




INCEPT DATE: 12 June, 2016

FUNCTION: Polit. Homicide




INCEPT DATE: 10 April, 2017

FUNC: Combat/loader (Nuc. Fiss.)





  Boomer: a corporate-constructed android-like being. Assembled (in some cases in orbit) for a variety of uses. Fully autonomous and intelligent, yet completely artificial.

The Bubblegum Crisis is little more than Blade Runner revisited. Once again the question of humanity is at stake: at what point is one no longer a living being, at what point does one become simply a mechanical tool. A spinoff of this series, A.D. Police, deals explicitly with cybernetic replacement and replicant humanity. A woman removes most of her organs to escape gender, a policeman is mechanically rebuilt leaving only his organic tongue. The result is insanity and violent psychosis. These beings are not Gibson's street samurai (though they retains the paranoia). Instead they are unstable Frankenstein monsters, with no handle on reality. They have fully escaped the flesh (as Case would have it in Neuromancer) only to find that it was the flesh itself which held the psyche together. This series argues that it is the body which dictates one's degree of humanity. Bubblegum is less reactionary, but only when the character in question is at least an approximation of the human form.

Granted, Bubblegum Crisis is a warning against industrialization and corporate power (as is Blade Runner, but without the additional Japanese characteristics of power armor and skimpy costuming). Unfortunately the main thesis is nothing new. It remains a fun series that steals almost explicitly from Ridley Scott's cinematic recreation of Dick's novel.













A "cyborg" refers to a human whose body has been partially or almost completely altered by the use of substitute artificial organs and parts.

The female cyborg suspended from the ceiling in the illustration to the left is over ninety percent machine. The only part of her original flesh-and-blood body that remains is her brain and spinal cord, and that, as the illustration shows, is inside a special shell. As she demonstrates, at first glance it is very difficult to tell the difference between a cyborg and a robot.

[Taken from the manga "Ghost in the Shell", p.101]

  Cyborg: a combination of hardware and organic systems. Usually defined as being originally human, though even the brain may be augmented / upgraded with circuitry and electronic hardware.

Ghost in the Shell is a step beyond all previous productions. Along with an impressive (though hardly subtle) storyline, it also integrates both hand-drawn cell animation with three-dimensional computer imaging (making it, in a sense, a cyborg within the realm of anime). In this case we are confronted with pure computer intelligence (A.I. --though the entity will not admit to it). Can a human merge with such a being and retain humanity? Can that being, a creature with intelligence, be considered a living organism in the sense that it has human rights? Would the enslavement of such a being be morally justified? What kind of classification should it be given? Though this story is difficult to navigate it does bring these issues to light (one would have to be blind to overlook them). The protagonist's quest to discover one's soul is not lost. Like the previous films this is a search for identity (soul searching, questioning of the mind / body duality, suspicion of hidden selves). There are difficulties, yet the politics of cyborgism are clear.

Haraway's theories only partially navigate the problems above. Clearly she considers the cyborg to be, if not humankind's superior, then at least its equal. The loss of humanity (of gender, class, individuality) is somehow less threatening in her scenario. For her, the constant questioning that takes place within cyborg cinema is less of a dilemma. One thus wonders how, if cyborgism is to be taken literally (and I think it eventually could be made possible via biomechanical engineering) Haraway might think of avoiding such pitfalls as the instabilities presented in fiction (which may very well remain fiction). She explicitly mentions (in A Cyborg Manifesto) that the cyborg state in effect unifies (or nullifies) the human / animal boundary; as we see above, there are some arguments which tie our sanity to the very fact that humans are animals. We need flesh to satisfy our animal needs, if nothing else; without the flesh we have little else except the mind (empty boundaries, loneliness, too much space = madness). The fact that cyborgs are simulacra with no precise original (they take the human template, but are not a continuation of an existing creation) means they are stranded --replicants are faced with such a dead end fact. Haraway ends her essay with the comment that she would rather be a cyborg than a goddess, but one should note that while the goddess business has been going on for millennia, cyborgs are a very new phenomena, and are yet untested. One should not jump to conclusions when fortelling evolution.