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This Future Looks Familiar: Watching Blade Runner in 2017

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I watched Blade Runner for the first time this week. Since I have apparently been living in a cave for the past few decades, I thought that Blade Runner was kind of like Tron but with more Harrison Ford, and less neon, and maybe a few more tricky questions about What Is The Nature Of Man.

That is the movie I was expecting.

That is not the movie I saw.

I told a lot of people that I was going to watch Blade Runner for the first time, because I know that people have opinions about Blade Runner. All of them gave me a few watery opinions to keep in mind going in—nothing that would spoil me, but things that would help me understand what they assured me would be a Very Strange Film.

None of them told me the right things, though. So, in case you are like me and have been living in a cave and have never seen Blade Runner before and are considering watching it, I will tell you a little about it.

There are cops, and there are little people.

There is a whole class of slaves. It is illegal for them to escape slavery. The cops are supposed to murder the slaves if they escape, because there is a risk that they will start to think they’re people. But the cops know that the slaves are not people, so it’s okay to murder them. The greatest danger, the thing the cops are supposed to prevent, is that the slaves will try to assimilate into the society that relies on their labor.

Assimilation is designed to be impossible. There are tests. Impossible tests with impossible questions and impossible answers. The tests measure empathy. It is not about having enough empathy, but about having empathy for the correct things. If you do not have enough empathy for the correct things, you will be murdered by a cop who does have empathy for the correct things.

In Blade Runner, an absurdly young Harrison Ford is a hard-boiled, world-weary kind of man named Deckard, and he is given a choice. He can be exactly as small as everyone is, or he can catch some escaped slaves for the police. He decides to catch the escaped slaves.

Except that ‘catch’ means ‘retire,’ and ‘retire’ means ‘murder.’

Deckard feels that he has no choice in this matter. He says it himself, and the person giving him the choice confirms that he is correct: no choice. But of course, there is always a choice. Certainly, the escaped slaves who he is chasing see that there is a choice. He can be power or he can be vulnerable to power. He chooses power. And power means murder.

The first such murder we witness is that of a woman who escaped slavery and came to Earth. She has found herself a job. It’s a degrading job, a job that even the hard-boiled, world-weary Deckard flinches away from watching. But it’s a job. She is participating in society. She is working. She’s doing the things that she has to do in order to be a part of the world that she risked everything to reach.

Deckard comes to her workplace. He finds her there, and he knows what she is, and she runs away from him because she knows what cops do to women like her. He chases her through the street and corners her. He aims his gun at her through a crowd of people. He squints. He takes a second too long to decide whether to shoot. She runs again.

(Nobody tells you about that part, when you tell them you’re about to watch Blade Runner for the first time. They tell you about all the different versions, and they tell you about the ambiguity of the ending, and they tell you about the fact that all the effects are practical effects. But nobody tells you about the part where a cop aims a loaded firearm into a crowd of people and tries to decide whether it’s worth risking their lives in order to murder an escaped slave.)

She runs, and then he corners her again, and then he shoots her. He shoots her in the back while she’s running away from him, running from death with so much panic that she crashes right through a shopfront window. Glass rains down around her, and she is dead. Not a dead person, of course. Because, as we have been told, she is not a person—they are not people. But she is dead, and when death happens in public, people will come to look. A small crowd begins to gather.

And then a police vehicle hovers overhead, and the police vehicle repeats the same two words over and over, in the same tone the crossing light uses to prompt those who can’t see the walk signal: Move on, move on, move on.

So the crowd moves on. The story moves on. And Deckard moves on.

He still has work to do. One down. The rest to go.

He murders other escaped slaves before the end of the film. He finds where they are hiding, and he murders them.

It is important, in the world of the film, to remember that the things he is murdering are not people. That it is their own fault for seeking free lives. That the cops are just doing their jobs.

It is important to remember to have empathy for the right things.

There is one escaped slave who Deckard does not murder. She asks him if he thinks she could escape to the North, and he says no. Whether that is true or not, we as the audience do not get to find out, because she does not escape. She does not escape because he decides to keep her. He is asked to murder her, and instead he decides to keep her for his own.

(Nobody warns you about that part when you tell them you’re about to watch Blade Runner for the first time. They tell you to watch for the origami, and they tell you that you won’t believe the cast, and they tell you about the celebrities who have been asked to take the Voight-Kampff test. But nobody warns you about the part where a cop convinces a slave that she cannot escape unless he is allowed to keep her. Nobody warns you about that part.)

Blade Runner does not ask us to sympathize with Deckard. At least, not in the version I watched, which was the Final Cut. I am told that there are other cuts which were deemed more palatable to theatre audiences at the time of release. Those cuts, I am told, reframe the man who chases a terrified escaped slave through the streets of a futuristic Los Angeles and then puts bullets into her back. They allow us to believe that he is a good guy doing a hard but necessary job, and that the hard but necessary job is hard because he is good. They allow us to believe that it is possible to be a good guy while doing that kind of a job.

This is a thing that it is very tempting to believe. It is a thing that we are accustomed to believing. It is as familiar as coming home.

Most people told me the same thing, when I said that I was going to come out of my cave and watch Blade Runner for the first time. When they were giving me their watery opinions so I’d be prepared for what I was about to see, they all said: “It’s a Very Strange Movie.”

They weren’t wrong. Not exactly. Not in the thing that they meant, which is that it is bizarre. They weren’t wrong about that. It is bizarre. The movie itself is ambiguous and nuanced and asks a lot of the audience. Asks too much of the audience, if you agree with the studio executives who released the original, theatrical cut. It is baffling and beautiful and terrible and tempting. It’s Surrealist Science Fiction Pulp Noir—it has to be weird and unsettling. That’s the genre.

But I would not call the world of Blade Runner strange, because it’s the opposite of strange. It’s familiar. If you subtract the flying cars and the jets of flame shooting out of the top of Los Angeles buildings, it’s not a far-off place. It’s fortunes earned off the backs of slaves, and deciding who gets to count as human. It’s impossible tests with impossible questions and impossible answers. It’s having empathy for the right things if you know what’s good for you. It’s death for those who seek freedom.

It’s a cop shooting a fleeing woman in the middle of the street, and a world where the city is subject to repeated klaxon call: move on, move on, move on.

It’s not so very strange to me.

Hugo and Campbell award finalist Sarah Gailey is an internationally-published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her work has recently appeared in Mashable, the Boston Globe, and Fireside Fiction. She is a regular contributor for <a href="http://Tor.com" rel="nofollow">Tor.com</a> and Barnes & Noble. You can find links to her work here. She tweets @gaileyfrey. Her debut novella, River of Teeth, and its sequel Taste of Marrow, are available from <a href="http://Tor.com" rel="nofollow">Tor.com</a>.

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gmuslera
12 days ago
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Now I'm very afraid f what other messages have the 2017 version
montevideo, uy
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3 public comments
zippy72
4 days ago
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Interesting take on the original Blade Runner.
FourSquare, qv
fxer
11 days ago
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quite an overly simplified viewing, strips out a lot of nuance and depth about what it means to be human from the movie. also completely omits that replicants are into torture and killing. pretty good discussion in the comments though
Bend, Oregon
fanguad
12 days ago
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The best kind of science fiction makes you think.

Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

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gmuslera
33 days ago
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The saga continues
montevideo, uy
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Pentagon Spends Billions on Syria Weapons; Falsifies End User Documents

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gmuslera
34 days ago
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Things are going bad in Syria because they are the ones that have the wrong government.
At least you can't blame Trump for this.
montevideo, uy
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Hottest Editors

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Elon Musk finally blocked me from the internal Tesla repository because I wouldn't stop sending pull requests for my code supporting steering via vim keybindings.
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gmuslera
188 days ago
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Emacs hottest feature was it's demise: climate change is caused by people abusing C-x M-c M-Butterfly https://xkcd.com/378/
montevideo, uy
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8 public comments
copyninja
182 days ago
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I'm still emacs user (slight correction spacemacs)
India
satadru
186 days ago
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2035 — The rising popularity of retrocomputing brings about a vim keybinding mod for ResEdit, written by a CRISPRed kid.
New York, NY
minderella
187 days ago
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Notepad Plus baby!
tingham
187 days ago
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Should I be ashamed more for still listening to Slipknot or that I still use Vim?
Cary, NC
Cthulhux
187 days ago
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ed is the standard text editor.
Fledermausland
sirshannon
187 days ago
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2010 and 2015 are correct for me.
alt_text_bot
188 days ago
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Elon Musk finally blocked me from the internal Tesla repository because I wouldn't stop sending pull requests for my code supporting steering via vim keybindings.
Covarr
188 days ago
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I'm pretty sure 2020's hottest editor will be a minecraft mod that can load plaintext files as in-world signs and then resave them back to plaintext files.
Moses Lake, WA
beowuff
188 days ago
It'll be called mc-vim
duerig
188 days ago
And you'll have to pay McDonalds royalty money to use it... :)
Samuele96
187 days ago
It sound pretty much like atom

The US is Officially a Banana Republic: the CIA is trying to topple the Government

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There's an electoral coup underway.

The number of potentially faithless Republican electors is now up to 50, more than enough to deny Trump the votes he needs for an EC win and/or give Hillary Clinton the votes she needs to win.

The stealth effort, led by liberals who believe Trump is a danger to the US, has been underway since the election.  

That effort only gained traction with Republican electors when the CIA leaked that Russia had intervened in the US election to help Trump win.  

Of course, the timing of the CIA's leak wasn't random.  

It was something much more sinister.  It was an opening salvo by the CIA to actively influence the Electoral College and stop Donald Trump from becoming President.  

In other words, the CIA is trying to topple Trump.

Why?  Self preservation. 

The real reason is that Trump was working with Peter Thiel to corporatize the intelligence gathering of the United States around companies, like Palantir, that can adopt and employ technology much faster and with more efficacy.  In other words, Trump is planning to turn the CIA and the NSA into peripheral collection systems.  

That was unacceptable to the CIA, an agency with a strong sense of self-importance.  

They acted again today when the head of the CIA refused to brief the House Intelligence Committee on the their claims because the chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes, was part of Trump's transition team.    

Instead, the CIA leaked more information this afternoon to influence electors:

"new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material.. was leaked"

However, due to tight legal restrictions on the use of the information the CIA gathers and who it gather it on (i.e. US citizens), I anticipated that any new leak would be from allied sources not covered by these restrictions.  

That proved to be correct:

"The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies."

What's next?

We can expect to see more leaks this weekend, before the EC votes on Monday.  

What kind of info?  A shred of evidence (a taped conversation would be best), gathered by US allies and not the CIA, that shows that Trump knew about the hack or came to an agreement with Putin.  

At that point, the EC will definitely flip and Trump will be denied an electoral college win on Monday.

After that we head to the courts and start down the road to street level violence.  

To avoid the chaos of merely unseating Trump, the electors may award Hillary Clinton the win since she is best able to gather the establishment around her to fight off Trump's bid.

Regardless, we have moved another step towards what looks more and more like another US civil war.  

It's not a long trip, now that we are a Banana Republic.  

Sincerely,

John Robb

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gmuslera
305 days ago
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montevideo, uy
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1 public comment
skorgu
305 days ago
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2016!
wreichard
305 days ago
Hey, Bolton says the hacks were perpetrated by the Obama administration as a false flag! We have taken leave of reality.
wreichard
305 days ago
And personally, I think people like this are part of the reason Obama has been hesitant to push any of this--because it probably means Civil War in the US.
wreichard
305 days ago
(Not because of the CIA.)

The Real Clinton Conspiracy That Backfired

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gmuslera
338 days ago
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Unlike in the movies where the villain creates a monster that should be able to defeat to get the glory, we won't have The Incredibles to save us from what Hillary's campaing created
montevideo, uy
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