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N: Some aspects of Blade Runner are darkly prophetic of the world we now inhabit. L.A. 2019 is a futuristic city filled with a multicultural society trying to live in a polluted atmosphere with huge billboards advertising what appear to be drugs. Genetic research has created something that touches on the very essence of what we consider socially acceptable. What elements of the "future vision" of BR do you now see as becoming or have already become reality?

PS: You've just named a clutch of them. Ubiquitous adverts. Rampant drug use - sanctioned drug use. Have you seen any of the TV commercials that are currently running on the American networks, the ones that are used to advertise prescription drugs like Nexium? That's an acid reflux treatment. And it's a prescription drug, not an over-the-counter medication. Those adverts are funded by global pharmaceutical companies, and they're all over the airwaves now. There certainly weren't any commercials like that back in 1982!

Crowded Los Angeles 2019 streets in Blade RunnerBR also predicted LA's teeming multiculturalism, although it focused on the wrong ethic group - Runner indicated that Los Angeles would become dominated by Asians, when in fact it's the Latino community that's achieved that distinction. So far. As for LA's smog problem, well, that's actually lessened since 1982. On the other hand, BR predicted profound weather changes in LA. Changes brought on by industrial pollution, which in the film took the form of acid rain. We may not have acid rain here yet, but LA most certainly seems to be receiving less and less rainfall each season, which some climatologists claim is directly related to global warming. Then there's the overcrowding and homelessness you see in BR. That's probably the most obvious prophecy that became a later reality. I mean, just cruise through downtown LA some night to see how close we are to 2019 here in 2002! Finally, there's the way BR nailed the police corruption we constantly suffer from in this city; the L.A.P.D. portrayed in BR seems to have a dangerous contempt for what Captain Bryant calls "little people". All I have to say is, does the name Rodney King strike a bell?

But that's the worth of social commentary in science fiction. The way certain SF books and films present alarming futuristic societies by simply expanding upon, or extrapolating from, contemporary cultural reality.

N: You are very well traveled - how do you think Blade Runner is perceived around the world? Indeed, how much has it influenced the world? When visiting the Akihabara ("Electric City") area of Tokyo I was stunned with the juxtaposition of large futuristic electronics stores with the large market around the corner - small, downbeat stalls selling electronic components - so very reminiscent of Animoid Row. Do you think the essence of Blade Runner already exists in Japan?

PS: Not only does it already exist in Japan - where I spent three years as a boy, by the way, living on a Naval base - BR's essence existed in Japan before the film was made. Ridley's gone on record, in fact, about that one. He's stated that he purposefully incorporated elements of the glitzy/crowded environment of Tokyo's Ginza district into the look of Animoid Row. So there's an example of the film using a preexisting reality.

However, the film has influenced the real world in other, subtler ways. For example, the type of font used for Blade Runner's logo wasn't at all well-known before the film's release, and now that font is everywhere. Architects have also written papers detailing how BR's buildings seem to have become increasingly mirrored in structures found today.

As far as being well-traveled, yeah, you're right. I love to travel. I do a lot of it, too, both inside and beyond the borders of this country. And virtually everywhere I go, Blade Runner is as revered, at least by the subgroups we discussed earlier, as it is here in America.

For example, I've given talks on the film throughout most of Western Europe. Germany, England, Italy and so on, and each presentation has always been well-attended. In fact, I did a BR talk last November (2001) in Bremen, Germany, for this remarkable annual graphic arts/film/digital symposium called Profile Intermedia. Over 1500 people showed up. Japan loves the film too. So interest in BR certainly exists in industrialized foreign countries. I'm pretty sure a large Blade Runner fan base doesn't exist in Africa or India or the Middle East, though… (laughs). Then again, who knows? The film seems to catch on wherever it's available. Perhaps those parts of the world treasure it too.

N: As prophetic as some aspects of Blade Runner seem to be, it also seems quite evident that there is only a minute possibility of us living Off-World and having Replicants by 2019! In fact, do you think we would ever develop anything remotely like Replicants? A strong tendency in Cyberpunk fiction that is beginning to be reflected in real life is to enhance ourselves while creating robots to do specific tasks.

PS: You just brought up one of my pet peeves. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but most science fiction pictures make the mistake of presenting wildly speculative advancements and technologies within a time frame that's much too close to our own. Spielberg's Minority Report is a good example of that. I'm damn sure we're not going to have automatic superhighways capable of sending remote-controlled vehicles up and down the sides of buildings fifty years from now! Same problem with BR - I don't see replicants being created by 2019, either. Much less Off-world colonies. I mean, we'll probably have landed a few more unmanned rovers on Mars by then, but that'll pretty much be it.

What I do see happening fairly soon involves the medical establishment using genetic research and selective breeding to enhance our own physicality, while also coming up with viable procedures that result in organ cloning. That may not be as far off as we think. You know, inventing methods that result in artificially-created kidneys, spleens, lungs, whatever. Not entire brains, though. The human brain is far too complex an organ to simply reproduce like a photocopy, at least at this point. Which, again, is not to say that this won't happen; I just think that brain cloning will occur much farther down the timeline than pop culture predicts.

On the other hand, I absolutely believe that we eventually will produce living replicas of ourselves. The question is, what form will those "replicants" take? Will they be just like us? Better than us? Or will they basically be mindless bodies you keep in communal storage somewhere, until you need your next liver transplant? Anyway, my gut feeling is that human cloning is inevitable; the genie's already out of that particular bottle, and there ain't no way to force it back in. Again, though, it's more of a matter of when these things will happen. I'm certain it won't be by 2019, though. Especially if the goddamn Republican Party is still in control of this country (laughs).


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