“I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” – Roy Batty
The book that the Blade Runner movies are loosely based off, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” is a dystopian science fiction novel written by Philip K. Dick that is set in San Francisco some time in 2021. Just after a third world war, millions of animals and species were rendered extinct and mankind was driven off the planet.
The people that remained on Earth, would covet the remaining living animals. For the poor, and people who could not afford one, hyper realistic birds, horses, sheep, were created, even humans, or androids. These new androids are so realistic that no one can tell whether they are human or machine and the government on Earth decides to ban the androids, for fear of their power. Androids are driven into hiding, while having bounty hunters known as “blade runners” hunt them down and “retire” them.
When one group of androids are faced with this fate, they decide to fight back so they can experience and be treated like living beings. However, these androids face a deadly blade runner, Rick Deckard.
While reading the book, the reader is faced with difficult questions about whether the main character Rick, or even perhaps you, are androids created with false memories implanted into your brain. The story also makes the reader question current moralities of how we view machines, and if we as part of humanity should treat artificially intelligent machines as “alive”. Even Dick’s title question is an astoundingly difficult problem that does not have clear answers. It is not even clear why humans dream, or if they have dreams, because currently, dreams are maya; facts that cannot be seen.
All these problems are becoming more real as time goes on. In the not so distant future, humanity will have to consider the rights and morals of machines, or whether we should treat them as equals. We also might face the problem of not knowing whether you yourself are an android implanted with someone else’s, or false memories.
I highly recommend readers to give this dystopian novel a read, and to consider for themselves whether an android is “alive”.