If Replicants Existed, How Would You Treat Them?

In both Blade Runner movies, we’re presented with the concept of “replicants”: Humanoid entities that look, sound, feel, think, and act like humans…except that they’re artificially made (I’m not quite sure how they’re made. They’re so close to humans that they’re essentially “born”).

If replicants existed, would you treat them any differently than humans?

When I posed this question to a few friends after the movie, their reaction was that no, they’d treat them with the same respect and dignity as human beings. However, I think there’s a difference between how we’d like to think we’d act in a certain situation and how we’d actually act.

I think it’s innately human to seek power. We learn to fight the negative implications over time: When we’re young, we take toys from our siblings or refuse to eat our spinach. These are power plays.

We control those urges as adults, but we still fall into temptation from time to time. Maybe we passively belittle someone or make a joke at their expense. Perhaps we issue an order instead of a request to someone in the service industry or speak down to a telemarketer.

The reason most of use don’t succumb to the allure of power is that another part of our humanity is that empathy we feel for each other. In many of those moments where a small part of you wants to feel powerful at someone else’s expense, a stronger part says, No. They’re human too. They deserve better.

It’s that check-and-balance that I hypothesize would be greatly diminished in our interactions with replicants. Because of that, I think we would be much more prone to asserting power over them, no matter how much we would fight those urges.

We’d justify it later by telling ourselves, They’re just machines. We don’t care how our microwaves feel, right? Our TVs? Do you say “please” when you make a request of Siri or Alexa?

Anyway, that’s my theory. My hope is that I’m wrong. What do you think?

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2 Responses to “If Replicants Existed, How Would You Treat Them?”

  1. Charles Dionne says:

    I started typing a reply twice now before deciding against it because surely someone could share similar thoughts to mine much more eloquently than I could. Since no one has replied yet, I’ll take a stab at it!

    Unfortunately Jamey, I’m afraid you are quite right in this situation. Just like your friends I would like to believe that if replicants were a part of our society I would absolutely treat them with the same dignity that all human beings deserve. However, if I’m being totally honest, it’s probably too good to be true: even among my fellow humans I’m sometimes guilty of treating someone in a way they don’t deserve (e.g., talking down to a co-worker). Thankfully, these moments are rare and so, as an individual, I think I would be accepting of replicants and could treat them as I would treat a fellow human.

    As a society however I’m afraid the situation would be a bit more grim. Without getting too political, I believe there is already too much hateful discourse being thrown around among us humans due to our differences, whether they are physical or ideological. Given the current situation, I can’t imagine it would any better for replicants when *they are not even human*. It would be an easy way to discriminate against someone because they were artificially created. I imagine knowing that you’re dealing with a replicant, a *machine*, would give a person a justification for a less-than-ideal behavior towards one, whether it’s conscious or not. So unless replicants were so advanced that it would be virtually impossible to distinguish one from a human, I believe that we would see a noticeable difference in treatment of replicants.

    I, too, hope I’m wrong 🙂

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for your response! I think that’s a very keen assessment, particularly the part about the current situation. I would extend that to include all of history too, unfortunately.

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