Imaginary Lines

Dan Stein []

If the next-generation replicant takes many more questions to identify, then what about next-times-ten generation replicant? It seems that there must be a point where the copy becomes indistinguishable from the original.

Glen Sanford poses an interesting question on the dwindling differences between Blade Runner/B>'s replicants and the border between these advanced replicants and us humans.

Others in the class have strengthened this argument by highlighting Haraway's comments regarding the "frayed" boundaries between the human and the cyborg.

I would like to add an important lexia to this web of thought regarding the parallel between the evolution of the "next-times-ten" generation replicant and the evolution of the human being. Kelly Maudslien points out the fact that the human organism contains within itself a "fitting metaphor for human-replicant interaction", that metaphor being the body's immune system. With the help of Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene I wish to show that an examination of Dawkins' proposed evolution of the human being proves that the distinction between us and them, the humans and the "replicants" of Blade Runner, is quite absurd.

In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins tells us of the "origin of life". He describes pre-life earth as a sea of chemical raw materials which eventually formed, by accident, a "particularly remarkable molecule" which could make copies of itself through simple chemical interactions. He calls this molecule the "Replicator". As multiple copies of this molecule was made, (the replicator drew its raw materials from the rich primeval soup in which life began) small errors would likely have occurred from time to time. This is similar to the way small errors were made in the days that texts were copied by hand - each of which created a slightly altered version of the original. In replicator reproduction, after millions of years these mistakes caused certain versions of the molecule to be overcrowded and thereby snuffed out by other versions which were randomly made better at reproducing. The current product of this unintended battle for resources is the current biosphere - including us.

[The replicators] are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.

Their survival machines. The replicants of Blade Runner are machines built by machines - machines which exist merely to aid in the randomly-derived need to survive and propagate intrinsic to Dawkins' replicators. What does that mean about the difference between humans and replicants? Between real life and artificial life? As Keith Feldman and Richard Dawkins point out, there is perhaps no such distinction.

Human suffering has been caused because too many of us cannot grasp that words are only tools for our use, and that the mere presence in the dictionary of a word like "living" does not mean it necessarily has to refer to something definite in the real world. Whether we call the early replicators living or not, they were the ancestors of life; they were our founding fathers

Whether we call them living or not, Blade Runner's replicants could indeed be the heirs (or at least co-inhabitants) of life.

[To other discussions of this topic by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]

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