Visions of blade runner

Film is an opportunity to montage visions of present and future and imagine what could be. It has been over thirty years since Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner; a movie adaptation of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? set in a bleak vision of 2019 Los Angeles. With a sequel on the horizon and Blade Runner the Final Cut now in cinemas from 3rd April, it seems like a good time to take a look back at how pivotal the visions of Blade Runner were on our current technological landscape.

A film can be used as a testing ground; an extension of the present. As Scott explains with Blade Runner, he was “trying to make it as real as possible. This is a tangible future, not so exotic as to be unbelievable… like today, only more so”. The film, illustrating an alternate reality, truly spurred the imagination. Advance is driven by pushing the limits of what is known and currently available to us technologically. The thought experiments of Blade Runner drove us to push the limits of our technology, and they have impacted our current technologies in a very real way. Their projections become our history, which we can then look back on and imitate.

Image of LED screens in BR:Blade runner LED screen

LED facade of Kumho Headquarters, Seoul Korea:Kumho headquarters

Blade Runner foresaw a society entangled in a technological world, such as a physical reality saturated in virtual information, with buildings armoured in information. We have moved towards a new way of visualising information, shifting away from the screen. Technology has caught up with the LED displays cladding of a futuristic LA, where LED lights can now be ‘supersized’. Examples of this include the Kumho Headquarters in Seoul, Korea, where 69,000 LEDs cover a combined surface area of 15m x 94m, or Greenpix in Beijing China – a solar powered LED display that harvests the sun during the day and illuminates the dark with over 2,000 LED lights, revealing massive moving images across its facade at night.

From the video phone of The Jetsons to the gesture control interface of Minority Report – technology starts with a vision of what can be. However, there is always the game changer, or the unexpected social implications of putting technology into use. For instance, no one could have imagined the success the discovery of the blue LED and the spectrum of colour that we can now achieve when painting the darkness.

The future can only be imagined in fragments and we don’t quite know how it will come together, especially because we are only extrapolating from our current understanding. Although we are still waiting on the hover car, without imagination, future progress is not possible.

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