April 24, 2009 Leave a comment
… would have been a much better title for my last post, come to think of it.
I first saw Blade Runner during its original cinema run back in 1982, around the same time as I was reading all the early William Gibson stuff, and it had a similarly profound effect on my emerging aesthetic consciousness. Functional hi-tech amidst a crumbling cityscape has been my idea of what the future holds ever since, and it’s always seemed quite attractive. What with the depression, and global climate change, and the decline of the Western powers, it’s just about possible to imagine that Los Angeles in 2019 will look pretty much like it does in Ridley Scott’s movie, though maybe without the flying cars, and hopefully without the killer robots on the loose.
There is a Bladerunner City in SL, but the architecture on display owes more to the ziggurats of the Tyrell Corporation than the run-down streets of future LA which, for me, are the most visually pleasing element of the film. The owners of the sim are evidently interested in transhumanism; the welcome notecard at the entrance gives a brief history of the idea, from Dante to Huxley. I got the impression that they would prefer Roy Batty (surely the least threateningly-named homicidal android ever) to the crumpled Rick Deckard, though of course (spoiler alert) it turns out that Deckard’s human frailty is actually a more perfect realisation of the replicant-maker’s craft than Batty’s superhuman abilities (or not, it depends which version you watch).
I can’t say that I am familiar enough with the various strands of transhumanism to have a firm opinion about it; I do believe that technology changes who we are as humans, but I think that that process does not operate on the level of the individual, but rather is mediated through the changes in social organisation that accompany advances in science. To take the internet as an example, it is only now that we are working out how to use it in a social way, with things like Facebook, and blogs, and even Second Life, that the full civilisation-changing potential of the medium is becoming apparent. Maybe one day we will all be dreaming of electric sheep.