Blade Runner is set in November 2019, here's how accurate the tech is

Chris Merriman
clock • 4 min read

Perfect human replicas but not so much as a Nokia 3310 to be seen

IT'S NOVEMBER 2019. In the wet streets, flying cars pepper the bleak skyline as neon signs break up the brutalist sprawl.

No, it's not a vision of post-Brexit Britain, but rather the Ridley Scott classic Blade Runner. First made in 1982, it predicts a future that we now live in. Apparently.

Although it would easy to dismiss it as dated science fiction, the film does get quite a lot right, just not necessarily the way it turned out. Let's take a look at ten bits of tech in the film and how they predicted, and in some cases influenced the real November 2019.

1. Replicants: Start with the big one. It's the heart of the story. In the film, replicants are almost imperceptible from real humans. It's an idea that has been explored before and since, but Blade Runner dares to question ethics, the first time it had really been done. Real World Accuracy (RWA): 2/10

2. Flying cars: Commonplace in the film, and widely predicted for decades. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer, and Uber recently began offering helicopters between JFK and Manhattan as a precursor to its own flying cars. RWA: 2/10

3. Zoom and enhance photos: Funny one this. The scene where Rick Deckard finds evidence in a tiny detail of a photo, using a tracking and zooming feature. In fact, this particular tech was invented a couple of years ago, in a case of life mimicking art, rather than the other way around. Google was at the heart of this, and there's a version of it in the new Nest Hub Max. RWA: 8/10 (docked two points, because it happened the wrong way around)

4. Voice control: Prevalent throughout the film, voice control has long been seen as the zenith of human-machine interaction. It's undeniably getting better, as anyone who has seen Live Transcribe on the Pixel 4 will attest. But in general, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana and especially Bixby, have a long way to go to catch up. RWA: 6/10

5. Mobile Phones: We know what you're thinking. There aren't any mobile phones in Blade Runner. We know. That's the point. One of the most game-changing bits of tech of the last 20 years isn't represented at all. Instead, fixed-line video calls are the order of the day. And look how far that hasn't come. RWA: 1/10

(5.5: Photos are largely still printed in the movie too, though they can also be seen on screens - but digital phots as we kno)

6. Superior Chinese tech: The world of Blade Runner is heavily influenced by the Chinese - the whole of society and even the language is peppered with it. But more so, much of the tech know-how seems to be Chinese too - eye-maker Hannibal Chew for example. In fact, the design aesthetic of the whole movie is supposed to be like "Hong Kong on a bad day". Given recent events, that phrase has a whole extra layer of meaning. RWA: 9/10

7. Lie Detectors: The way that Blade Runners track down escaped replicants is with a machine called the Voight-Kampff Test. It's designed to measure emotional response. In other words, it's a lie detector of sorts. We only need to think back a few months to the whole Jeremy Kyle affair to know that this is pretty bang on. However, generally, they're regarded as inaccurate in the real world. They are currently banned from being submitted as evidence in UK law. RWA: 7/10

8. Living in space: ‘A better life awaits you in the off-world colonies!' barks a tannoy. In fact, hold that thought, because we'll come back to it in a minute. The replicants were sometimes made specifically to do the heavy lifting in populating the solar system. We're a heck of a way off it yet, but the planned mission to return to the moon in 2024 is designed as a first step to long-distance space travel. So not now. But soon. RWA: 2/10

9. Electric sheep: Despite the title of the book that the film is based on, there are no electric sheep to be seen in the adaptation. But it is suggested that most animals are gone and have been replaced by synthetic replicants too. In reality, there's not much call for fake animals, but the idea of a robot pet has been around since the Sony Aibo in 1999 - still a current line, and still a much-loved part of many a Japanese home. RWA: 4/10

10: Climate change: Not so much technology, but climate change is at the heart of everything in the movie and much of the tech is a reaction to the changes in the environment. Why is it better in the off-world colonies? Why does it rain so much? Why have all the animals been replaced by synthetic versions? Why is it so dark? All roads point to either a climate disaster or a nuclear winter. In that sense, this is the most accurate prediction of all. RWA: 9/10

Time. To Die. μ  

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