Monday, November 28, 2005

Episode #4 - BladeRunner & What is it to be human ?

In this Episode of the Sci Phi Show we look at the 1982 Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner based on the P.K.Dick story "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ?"

Episode #4 (19 minutes 37 seconds)

Show Notes

Blade Runner
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ?

@LL Robot Radio
the Radio Adventures of Dr Floyd

Do you have an idea for a show or feedback ? Email


Blogger HatHead said...

Another great show Jason and thanks a ton for playing my promo!

We do need the forums - lots of good topics to discuss.

And yes, you have a cool voice.


6:21 PM  
Blogger Bob Mottram said...

I think the question "what constitutes a person?" will become a defining theme of the 21st century. As time goes on we will have the ability to genetically engineer ourselves in ways which were previously unimaginable, or arbitrarily copy people any number of times. There will be legal restraints, but ultimately I don't think people will be able to resist the temptation to tinker with their own design, especially if it makes their kids smarter, stronger, less susceptible to disease or longer lived.

Also I think the distinction between what is human and what is a machine will become far less distinct. If some future technology could scan every molecule in your body and transfer that information into a computer simulation which contained the same rules of physics and chemistry, does that make the simulation a person or merely a computer program? The simulation would certainly claim to be you. Whould it have the same rights? Perhaps this would become a future industry, where people downloaded simulated celebrities and have them perform in their own living rooms in the same sort of way as people watch DVDs today.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Salim Fadhley said...

I prefer the new format of SiPhi, excellent work.

Can I also suggest something that Stephen Eley (from Escape Pod) does which is to put all the 'meta' stuff at the end of the show .That means stuff like shouts to friends, and discussions of the show structure.

Anyway, this is my first ever post on your blog; I manage Resonance FM podcasts in London. If you get a moment check out the shows I help produce: Hooting Yard and The Exciting Hellebore Shew - follow my link.

4:55 AM  
Anonymous Salim Fadhley said...

Regarding the "Who is a Person" issue, one commom christian outlook I find bizzare is that they are pro-life (which in itself isnt a problem), but that they agree with unnececary wars, and value lives abroad less than lives locally.

For example if a period of sanctions results in the death of hundreds of thousands of babies (born and unborn) this somehow irks them less than an abortion centre which might kill tens of unborn babies.

I'm not going to enter into the whole pro-life thing here, but I do object to the inconsitency with which pro-lifeism is applied. To quote bill-hicks, it's as if once the child is born we are off their love-list.

Regarding Starship Troopers, we might also discuss Heinlen's notion of citizenship. The Verhoven film is obviously satire, however it's hard to tell from the book if Heinlein is being satirical or genuine.

Regarding Solaris, this is an excellent topic for debate. I love the way that Lem portrays the alien entity (if that is what it really is), as something truly unfathomable whose attempts to communicate with us are as futile as ours with it.

It's a very pessimistic contrast to the Star-Wars / Star Trek notion of what alien life might resemble: Think Chewbacca or Mr Spock.

It's interesting to see how our notion of alien-ness is cultural. For example in the 60's Star Trek the "klingons" were somewhat chineese looking, and these days some have said that they look vaguely arab - entirely human notions of alienness.

Lem's solaris is cannot be "mapped onto" a humanoid body-form. We cannot read it's emotions or intent. Whatever motivates it to do what it does is utterly inscrutable.

I suppose the point is that we have nothing in common with the solaris entity, and as a result we have no basis to establish any further knwowledge.



5:18 AM  
Blogger Bayard said...

Hi there Jason. As a former philosophy major and huge Philip K. Dick fan, I really enjoyed your show. I look forward to more of the same.

In response to the objections some people may be having to your "conservative bent" I think you're being very balanced in your approach. I myself am of liberal persuasion, but the objections you brought up towards drawing a line in the sand between humans and non-humans is something people of any political persuasion have to come up against. As Peter Singer effectively argued in a lecture I attended recently, you cannot find an absolute standard of humanity that is not prone to contradict your common-sense understanding of what it means to be human. Any philosophical position regardless of political ramifications will have to take into account what cases it effectively includes and discludes. Anyhow, good stuff and I'm sure to tune in again!

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Wyrd said...

Please let us have forums. :-)
email (since you implied I should provide one) gotwyrd AT <>

The minicasts are fine too.

Furry cows moo and decompress.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Caviar said...

Good show this time, but not great, and I can tell you why.

The question posed in the show title is "What is it to be human?" You criticised (eloquently and thoroughly) one definition of human, that being that a human is one who can pass the test from the Blade Runner movie. What I found lacking, however, was that you did not then propose your own definition of what it means to be human.

The show effectively said, therefore, "What is it to be human? I don't know, but it sure isn't what this Singer guy would have you believe." I want to know what you think. Without criteria for what is human, how can we differentiate between human (you and I) and not-human (cows, trees, rocks)? This is an important question, especially if you're an omnivore. Why can we eat cows, but not homo sapiens? Aren't we all human? And if we aren't all human, why aren't we? Surely it's not a question of sapience, because you said yourself babies aren't "non-human" because they aren't sapient. I would suspect that you would also say that it's not the potential for sapience, either, given what I know about your beliefs, because then severely retarded homo sapiens wouldn't be human. So if it's not sapience or the potential for sapience, what is it?

Why am I a human, and a monkey not? Is it because homo sapiens are human and monkeys can't breed with homo sapiens? Was Neandertal man a human, then? Or gorillas, that show more intelligence then babies or mentally retarded people? If Neandertals and gorillas, or a hypothetical alien race that has intelligence, self-awareness and morals are human, why aren't cats and dogs? Cows and pigs? If brain power doesn't matter, why do brains? Or the shape and size of our bodies? If an eight cell embryo is human, why isn't a tree human? Why is it okay to kill and eat carrots? Or should we become frugivores, only eating the fruit of plants, because that is what plants "want" us to eat?

Simply, what is your definition of human?

12:12 PM  
Blogger mental-escher said...

Like the new format!

Point of note: the replicants were not in fact "human" equivalents, they were cyborgs- part "human" and part machine (they were very much made up of hydrolyics as seen when they got blow open in the movie). So they were not humans, but humanoid. Definition of human is difficult relative to animals (a grey line), but even less challenging when compared relative to a machine because machines do not "feel", or do they...?

1:01 PM  
Blogger Brian Yoder said...

One interesting question that is rarely discussed though it is a linchpin of any analysis of what it means to be human or not is how and why we ought to treat humans differently from non-humans. Some people (who I think are downright evil by the way) would say that there is no reason to treat humans as any different from non-humans. Others say that we should treat them differently for some religious reasons (I disagree with them too). Others say that as a matter of principle, we should treat humans differently from non-humans for prudential reasons (e.g. that they can take revenge, plan ahead to thwart some kinds of attacks, that cooperation between humans is a positive value to be pursued, etc. which I think makes a lot of sense). Others claim that it's jsut some emptional, inborn, or cultural set of rules that one must just accept on faith for no good reason.

Interestingly enough, these same issues are pivotal (and likewise as infrequently discussed) when it comes to the various arguments about genetic engineering. Far too often these more fundamental questions are just sidestepped in a rush to get to the answer, and as a result the answers are usually too muchy and poorly thought through to have any merit at all. That makes most disucssion of genetic manipulation in the movies so thin that they are of little value in trying to understand the issues.


12:52 PM  
Blogger clumz said...

This is the first episode of your show I have had the good fortune to hear. You are currently on Episode 6, which I plan to listen to later today possibly.

I have to admit I came to your Podcast with high expectations. My expectations were high in that I thought the idea of juxtaposing philosophy with science-fiction to be an excellent concept.

My opinion of this episode is that it has a lot of potential. But unfortunately falls short.. it falls short on the philosophical side.

It is my assumption that anyone who enjoys science-fiction and has seen Blade Runner could have, with very little difficulty, come to the same conclusion as you in your podcast.(Maybe with the exception of your opinion on the genotypical sorting of fetuses... which I happen to agree with - your opinion that is - I agree with... but I still consider it moralizing.)

It is the overall (not underlying) theme of Blade Runner you are discussing and thus it seems as though you really do not truly discuss 'the aspect' of 'being human'.

To understand what being 'human' is I think it is important to understand how we define a human being. You touch upon this but with little or no relation to philosophy.

In metaphysics there are universals...
Most christians adhere to universals. Universals are in a sense what define humans according to the bible... "God created man in his own image."

So from here you could have taken up the bible as a philosophical approach to what is a human.

You could have also discussed Descartes and his Meditations or Kant and his noumenal world.

Continuing that you could have discussed consciousness and what it means and its determining for 'humanism' or anything for that matter.

What I mean is the question really is not whether the replicants are human or not... this is irrelevent... the question is whether they 'are' and should they be treated so.

The definition of 'are'ing is tough. Is consciousness a prerequisite? Is it a question of perception in reality since only one person knows you are conscious and that person is you.

By the last statement I am referring to the philosophy of the mind and consciousness being that oomph we get when we experience something... which many assume is true only for higher organisms.

Anyway my point is not to tell you what 'being human' is... that is what your show is meant to do. My point is to tell you that I think that a more sincere integration of philosophy into your show will give it a better chance of survival.

In conclusion I have only listened to one episode and I think it would be unjust of me to pass judgement on the whole show on that alone.

I really hope this is a success for you and I look forward to hearing it evolve in the future.



clumz is:
admin at Orion's Gate at East of the Web - uncut
op at #philosophy on the undernet.

12:18 PM  
Blogger haganator said...

the blade runner show was the first i ever herd and i gotta say i liked it
i have to do an essay on blade runner and the meaning of life at skool and i accidently found this site wen researching it.
i think ur really smart and u helped me sooooooo much
so thanks a bunch and i think i'll have to listen to this thingy more often.
and stop apolagising after everything u say.dont worry if ur offending anyone it ur opinion.
thats all from me

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

The novel(not short story) on which BladeRunner was based (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) was full of very heavy philosophical meanderings. The movie barely brushed the surface. Of all of the science fiction I have read, I think this particular book does the best job of dealing with the topics of what is human, what is God, and what is reality without ever actually answering the questions. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

I'm coming to this podcast very late, but I had to dip into the archives to see if this particular topic had been covered and was glad to see that it was one of the first.

Good work and I'm sure I will enjoy listening to the rest of your episodes.

2:06 AM  

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