Equal Rights for Replicants
In Blade Runner, the Tyrell Corporation by 2019 has so successfully cloned humans (“replicants”) that they can only be distinguished from humans by elaborate tests for emotional responses by checking eye movement, breathing, and pulse rate while they respond to sensitive questions. Although designed without human emotions, replicants have evolved such emotions. Replicants were designed to be “superior in strength and ability, and at least equal in intelligence,” not to normal humans, but to the brilliant genetic engineers who created them.
The moral message comes fast: replicants are slave labor in the hazardous conditions of off-world planets, exploited for exploration there. On meritocratic or egalitarian principles, clones should possess equal rights with humans because they are superior in strength, ability and intelligence.
But replicants are treated worse than pets, more like things. Understandably, replicants revolt and humans come to fear them. For replicants to return to Earth is illegal, on pain of death. Without hearing or trial, any replicant on earth can be killed by Blade Runners, a special police unit. When replicants are so executed by Blade Runners, they are said to be “retired.” Following the Blackout in 2022, some Blade Runners instead used the term “exterminate.”