NEXUS 6, the Four-Year Human

Zachary Reiss-Davis, '08, The Cyborg Self, Brown University, Spring 2005

Blade Runner, which came out in 1982, employs a whole class of AIs who are human in almost every way - the NEXUS-6. They look, think, act and react so human that they are indistinguishable without a machine-aided test. They were designed with two key differences from a person: they have superhuman strength and they have a four-year lifespan. The main androids in the movie are Roy Baty, Pris, Leon Kowalski, Zhora and Rachel Tyrell. At the start of the script, an android is defined as:

android (an'droid) n, Gk. humanoid automation. more at robot./ 1. early version utilized for work too boring, dangerous or unpleasant for humans. 2. second generation bio-engineered. Electronic relay units and positronic brains. Used in space to explore inhospitable environments. 3. third generation synthogenetic. REPLICANT, constructed of skin/flesh culture. Selected enogenic transfer conversion. Capable of self perpetuating thought. paraphysical abilities. Developed for emigration program.

WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY New International (2012) [Source]

They can be conceptualized as the result of taking R. Daneel Olivaw from the Caves of Steel and removing the Three Laws of Robotics from him. When comparing Asimov's and Blade Runner's androids, notice the direct homage through the use of positronic brains in the definition of "android" in the movie.

In turn, the AI in Bubblegum Crisis 5 is created almost explicitly from the Priss, one of the NEXUS 6s.


Should the NEXUS 6s of the movie be recognized as human? What if they could have a human lifespan?

Are the NEXUS 6s more or less than human in the movie?

Is Roy Batty more or less human than R. Daneel Olivaw? Consider his limited lifespan versus his lack of restraints on his behavior. Why?

While both Roy Batty and R. Daneel Olivaw are human-looking and acting cyborgs who are not allowed on Earth, one is allied with the police and one is being hunted down by the police. Does this say more about the different authors' views towards cyborgs, or a change in society's views in the thirty years that pass between one work and the next? How do we view cyborgs now?

The word "positronic" is used in the introduction to the movie script, and no where else in Blade Runner. Why do you think the writers inserted this reference to Asimov's work, without any attempt to tie it to the rest of the movie?

A scene was deleted from the movie which explicitly raises the issues of whether or not the replicants were human, probably because the director wanted to make the viewers come to that question on their own. In contrast, Heinlein states the questions of humanity very bluntly in the passage about the birth of Mycroft Holmes. Which style do you prefer? Which one is more effective?

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Last modified 22 March 2005