More Human Than Human: Is Blade Runner Slowly Becoming Real?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Nov 27, 2011 in Cinema, Science |

Blade Runner

While reading an interesting interview with a medical ethicist and I was suddenly struck by how much this premise reminded me of the 1982 classic film Blade Runner: “Do you think that granting corporations the rights of people in the Citizens United case is disturbing? Then contemplate the fact that corporations have been patenting human genes and tissues at alarming rates — in the last 30 years, more than 40,000 patents have been granted on genes alone.”

Blade Runner replicant

Granted that Harriet Washington isn’t predicting that replicants will be running amuck in near future battlefield, but now that we’re only 8 years from the mythic date of November 2019 it’s interesting how quickly genetics is becoming a big business. What’s interesting is that like software the legal world is lagging behind the biotech world which is making rapid advancements everyday. We currently already have invented oil eating bacteria so while we may not see cyborgs roaming the streets by the end of the decade perhaps artificial owls might not be out of the question?

Blade Runner artificial owl

The irony to me as a fanboy is that I’ve watched the world of computers advance at an amazing rate since Blade Runner came out almost thirty years ago — when I look at devices like an iPad they remind me very much of the technology I was seeing in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So it wouldn’t be too much of a far cry to perhaps expect to see a Moore’s law apply to the world of genetic engineering. On the positive side we might start to see a disease like cancer become a treatable condition instead of a potential death sentence — but on the negative side we could see a wide range of unimagined corporate abuse where patents might trump a larger good. Perhaps there’s a strong need for a biotech open source movement? Now’s the time to get started…

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