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A University of Alicante researcher's article on Blade Runner and its sequel throws new keys to alleviate dehumanisation of our society

Blade Runner: “I know what is real”

“What determines our human condition is how we treat others: if your processes and actions are soulless or mechanical, you become dehumanised.”

The expert advocates science fiction films as means of scientific dissemination

She states that scientific dissemination is a fundamental task today that must be guaranteed by universities and public institutions



Alicante, 22 November 2019

What is reality? Ridley Scott’s popular film Blade Runner that takes place in November 2019 left us doubting if everything we think is programmed and, therefore, we are nothing more than automatons with no will or voice of our own.  The development of this idea in its sequel is reported in the research published in the scientific article Blade Runner, de 2019 a 2049 El cine de ciencia ficción como divulgador de la ciencia (Blade Runner, from 2019 to 2049. Science fiction cinema as a disseminator of science) by University of Alicante PhD in Sociology of Culture Esther Marín Ramos. Blade Runner 2049 released thirty-five years later, offers novel answers to this question and to the evil effects of progress.


Technological advances and unethical dehumanisation

The researcher reveals that the evolution of these two films gives an answer to the dehumanisation process in the era of technical reproducibility, objectification and commercialisation of humans by uncontrolled capitalism and serial production.  Technology or artificial devices by themselves do not make humans less human, but the way it is used.  What determines our human condition is how we treat others: if our processes and actions are soulless and mechanical, we become dehumanised. This is also true the other around, that is, what provides anything with humanity, however artificial it may be (a replicator as in Blade Runner, a doll as in Toy Story, a computer system as in Her, or a fictional being in general) is the humanity with which they are treated and cared for.

The results of this study reflect on some of the theories that have tried to describe today's society.  The extreme scepticism that Baudrillard pointed out does not serve us to emancipate ourselves, but as a strategy of the villain: if we do not believe in anything, we do not take action and therefore, we are usable.  Capitalism needs us to relativise everything, to believe that everything can be interchangeable and beatable, even people. It keeps on selling us products, even human beings if necessary, Marín stated.  That is why the character of Rick Deckard, in the recent Blade Runner cannot forget about it:  "I know what is real", he replies to the megalomaniac Wallace who tries to make him doubt himself. "Deckard bets on the subjective truth, emerged from his own experience, not that conferred from outside by others.  Doubting makes us be aware, but we cannot remain there; in relativism there is no movement.  We need to make our own non-established beliefs.


Science fiction and popular science cinema

"In order that the techno-scientific progress does not turn against us, we need to take care and control the way in which we apply them.'’  This idea was already raised in the first Blade Runner, but is clearly developed in the second (BR 2049). This has a key value today, and not necessarily only for those who are dedicated to the field of science and technology, as stated by Marín Ramos.  The accelerated pace of progress surpasses our ability to integrate it.  Even the Philosophy of Science has no time to consider the possible effects of techno-scientific advances on our lives.  This is why the researcher urges us to defend the relevance of the dissemination of science, in order to be able to assimilate and integrate discoveries properly and save them from uncontrolled commercial exploitation.  In this sense, the role of science fiction films, like the two films in this study, are invaluable for us to reflect on, prevent and avoid undesirable effects, as well as to prepare ourselves for the changes generated by progress.

The scientific dissemination that this PhD researcher defends "is a fundamental task today that must be guaranteed by universities and public institutions capable of ensuring an honest performance regardless of private interests.  She also complains about the dissemination conceived as a theme park for merely recreational and commercial purposes. Science should make us think about such important things, for example, if we are ready to create human beings without diseases and superior to us.

The researcher's published work is a comparative analysis, from a sociological perspective, of Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) and its sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017). The two films are thirty-five years apart from each other, a time that gives Marín Ramos the opportunity to observe to what extent changes in our culture have modified the discourse of one of the science fiction plots that, with greater emphasis, represented the fear of the adverse effects of progress.  The article has been published in the ORT Uruguay University journal InMediaciones de la Comunicación.



The author

Esther Marín Ramos holds a PhD in Sociology of Culture from the University of Alicante and graduated in Journalism from the Complutense University of Madrid.  Founder of the first Spanish NGO on Communication for Development, with which she carried out several programmes on educational communication.  She was a lecturer in Psychology of Communication and Theory of Audiovisual Communication at the Miguel Hernández University Studies Centre Ciudad de la Luz.  Currently, she writes regularly about cinema and television series in the magazine PíkaraMagazine and gives talks and specialised courses in cinematographic analysis.

In her recent work, the book La (re)evolución social a través del cine:  Los argumentos cinematográficos en la crisis de la modernidad (2018) as well as in some articles published in different academic journals, she approaches social communication through fiction from both a psychosocial and gender perspective.



 Bibliographical reference:

Blade Runner, de 2019 a 2049 El cine de ciencia ficción como divulgador de la ciencia. Marín Ramos, E. InMediaciones de la Comunicación, Vol. 13 / No. 2, 2018, pp. 187-211.






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