The Decommisioning of Androids

The Decommisioning of Androids

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The Decommisioning of Androids

In this essay I plan to prove, using three main concepts from John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding that replicates are not persons and can be retired without violating and moral, ethical, or legal laws. Replicates are merely man made intelligence and became a threat to real humans. Since the beginning of time man has killed animals and other humans that were a threat to others well-being. Why should these manufactured replicates be any exception?

Problem: The problem proposed in the paper is weather or not it is ethical to retire replicates from the movie Blade Runner. In order to answer this question I must answer a couple of other questions. The hardest question will be, Are replicates people or are they just created machines by man. If they do qualify as living beings do we have the right to kill them based on our principles? One can look at these questions from many points of view. I chose to look at these questions from John Locke's perspective. I will use his philosophy to justify my answers to this question.

Background: The movie Blade Runner takes place in the 21st Century. In this time period humans have the technological knowledge to genetically produce human like androids that have the capacity to think, feel, learn, and move about freely. They are in no way controlled by an outside party. However some of these replicates have learned too much and discovered that they are indeed man-made and can only live for four years. In an effort to find a way to extend their lives they rebel and kill several people in a "off world" and hijack a ship and return to earth. These replicates have been made illegal on earth and a special police unit called Blade Runners has been given the authority to kill any replicate on earth upon detection. This is where the moral and ethical dilemma comes in. Do these Blade Runners have the right to kill all replicates in punishment for the actions of a few? I say yes. The Blade Runners have every right to retire these replicates for several reasons. In the movie these replicates are a danger to society. When Tyrell told the replicate that he could not extend its life span he killed him. One cannot ask for the impossible and then punish he who cannot produce the impossible. I can understand why the replicates are upset.

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Their life is limited to such a short time. Still this is not a reason to commit murder. From a philosophical stand point I will support my beliefs concerning the retirement of replicates.

Criteria: The justification for the retirement of replicates comes from three of John Locke's philosophical positions relating to the concepts of a person. To begin with, Locke critiques the rationalistic idea that any human mind is equipped with innate or in born ideas that do not arise from experience. What this means is that no human can have an idea that was not perceived through the senses from the outside world. Locke firmly believes in the Tabula Rasa. This is the blank slate theory. This means that when a person comes into the world it has absolutely no ideas imprinted on its mind. All the ideas a person will acquire will come from the time they were born until the time they die. There are no preexisting ideas. This concept of Locke's will be used to dispute replicates memories.
The second concept of Locke's is that all ideas and knowledge come from the outside world. Locke states that all things in the physical world must be perceived through the senses and then stamped on the mind. Locke believes that a person's experiences produce ideas, which are the immediate objects of thought. People are not directly aware of physical objects. They are directly aware of the ideas the objects in the physical world cause in them and they represent the objects in their consciousness. People then arrive at ideas by reflecting on the impressions on their own minds. An idea is anything that the mind perceives in it, or is the immediate object of perception. You cannot perceive any idea from the mind without perceiving parts of it from the outside world. This concept will be used to argue against some of the replicates understandings.
Locke also believes that all objects in the physical world were created and caused by a divine being or God. This divine being is the perfect perceiver because he caused everything in existence. If this divine being is the cause of all objects in the physical world he is also the cause of all persons who perceive the world. He gave these persons the ability to perceive. This point will be used to argue the replicates very existence.

Analysis: The retirement of replicates is justified by these three philosophical concepts. If a person is a being who is born with a blank slate, with no innate ideas, then because the replicates have implanted memories of childhood, we can say that these replicates are not persons. Tyrell gave each of the Nexus 6 replicate false memories of their childhood. Many of these memories were actually those of Tyrell's niece. Real people have no memories of their childhood until they have actually lived that portion of their life. This fact alone makes it hard to accept the replicate as persons.
The next concept that discredits replicates as persons is perception of the physical world to form and cause ideas. If all ideas must come form perception of the outside world, then because one of the replicates, Leon, stated that he had never seen a turtle but knew what the examiner was talking about tells us the he is not a person. If Leon had never seen a turtle how could he possible know what one was or why it could not right itself when turned up side down? It is absolutely impossible to understand something that a person has had absolutely no contact with. Leon was definitely not a person.
In addition to this last point, Locke says that all persons must learn to reflect and reason in order to understand many of life's complex ideas and knowledge. The replicates were actually created with the same intelligence as their creators, which were humans at the Tyrell Corporation. It is impossible for a person to posses this kind of intelligence at birth. For this reason the replicates cannot be persons.
The last point to be made against the replicates is the fact that a divine being is responsible for all that is perceived. This could be possible except for the fact that these replicates were designed and produced by humans at the Tyrell Corp.

Conclusions: Some of Locke's concepts would have considered the replicates as persons. I think it impossible for anyone to deny that fact. Unfortunately I always came back to these major concepts. A being that has innate ideas cannot be a person. No one can be born with preexisting memories. No person can understand ideas that they have never had any experience with. No one can visualize and understand a turtle that they have never seen. No one can be born with the same intelligence as a fully-grown adult. Most importantly no person can be considered a person who was created by man. Due to these problems with the replicates existence I feel that the Blade Runners were completely justified in retiring replicates. These replicates were merely machines created by man that had become a menace to society. They are androids.


Blade Runner
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
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