“Electrical Things Have Their Lives”: Exploring the Legacy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner in Almost Human

Emily Capettini

Indiana State University


Published in 1968, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? poses a question science fiction has been attempting to answer since its inception: what makes us human? The question is further explored in the adaptation, Blade Runner, “where human beings valorize above all else an emotion that is thought to be uniquely human: empathy” (Patell 29). Indeed, Blade Runner, like its source material, uses an empathy test to determine the difference between replicant and human. In contrast, the 2014 science fiction television show, Almost Human, evaluates the consequences of an android that has too much empathy. While television critics have argued that Almost Human relies too heavily on established science fiction tropes, these tropes and specifically, the visual allusions to Blade Runner, are an attempt to establish the show’s artistic ancestry and signal Almost Human is in conversation with Blade Runner. Thus, Almost Human pivots from the supposed danger of creating an android or replicant without empathy to the danger of creating one with too much. Blade Runner approaches the question of humanity from a human—or presumably-human point of view—whereas Almost Human focuses on the question of humanity from the android point of view. Such an adjustment to the question returns Almost Human to Do Androids Dream, in which Rick Deckard concludes that “the electrical things have their lives too, paltry as those lives are” at the end of the novel and questions if an electrical life is necessarily paltry (Dick 239). This presentation will also include how the upcoming sequel, Blade Runner 2049, to be released in October 2017, works with these questions.

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Del Rey, 2008. Patell, Cyrus R. K. “Screen Memory: Androids and Other Artificial Persons, Harvard Review, No. 3, Winter 1993, pp. 25-29.

2018 National Conference
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