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5 novel concepts around AI explored in Blade Runner 2049 and its parallels in real life

5 novel concepts around AI explored in Blade Runner 2049 and its parallels in real life

Richa Bhatia

Artificial intelligence-themed movies aren’t new. What’s ground-breaking is how real we are getting in depicting an AI-ruled world that would soon become a reality. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 provides more than a peek into the dystopian future where robots with super-intelligence could govern Earth and gain power over mankind. Sounds like the doomsday predictions by Elon Musk where androids “become more human than human”, rise up against human masters and finally gain full autonomy have come to life in the Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford-starrer movie.


But we are not here to delve into the details of the movie. Instead, Analytics India Magazine will give a lowdown on the 5 novel concepts around AI explored in Blade Runner 2049 and its parallels in real life: (Fair warning — this post contains spoilers)

1. Holographic AI: The new dreamy version brings us closer to holographic artificial intelligence in the form of Officer K’s virtual girlfriend Joi, played by Ana de Armas who seems closer to Spike Jonze directed Her’s Samantha. Officer K, essayed by Ryan Gosling is also a replicant, who like in the prequel is assigned the job of hunting down fellow replicants and retiring them. However, the question here isn’t whether machines can exhibit a deeper level of self-awareness and humanity at any level? It is about holographic AI and its parallel in real life.

Real Life Cortana: Would you like to see a real-life Cortana just like Big Bang Theory’s Siri or Her’s Samantha? Developers are already testing prototypes for HoloLens. Here’s another one from web developer Jarem Archer who has also developed a Holographic Cortana appliance.


2. Ethics in AI: The movie also deals with philosophical questions such as what labels should be assigned to replicants and what happens when artificial characters end up procreating. Can replicants ever be granted a status of personhood which will then be in direct conflict to humans?

AI Ethical Watchdog: It’s a question that vexes tech leaders and policymakers across the globe. Do we need an ethics body to control AI from growing all too powerful? How do we make AI more transparent before it goes too far down the road? Will the army of robots that are displacing humans at a rapid pace need a new set of laws that deal with their co-existence and tackles issues such as procreation? Can we ever humanize AI? Today, we have quite a few ethical watchdogs that are in the process of laying down clear ethical guidelines, more on the lines of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.\

3. Strong AI: In the film, the replicants are an example of “strong AI,” or artificial general intelligence (AGI) that enables a machine to carry out any human task and even undertake advanced decisions on its own. Strong AI means replicants are stronger than humans in every respect and can even have real emotional experiences.  However, the film also deals with questions of soulless robots having consciousness and whether AI-powered intelligence mean real consciousness.

Strong AI use cases: while the film deals with the concept of Strong AI, we still don’t have many use cases of Strong AI. However, there is one example where researchers developed an AI program that taught itself to play 49 Atari games, obtained the highest score and outperformed humans in 2.5 hours. With robotics and automation gaining traction on factory floors and restaurants across the world, soon examples of Strong AI behaving like humans will emerge. All other AI-powered applications in NLP, speech and voice recognition and image recognition fall under the category of Weak AI, since this requires input data. These applications cannot operate outside their area. Industry experts believe more advances in Amazon Echo, Siri and Cortana can turn these devices into mega bots.

4. Synthetic Android/Human: The robot apocalypse could very well be upon us as the sequel dives further into questions about procreation and whether a child born to a replicant could have a soul.  Another question the movie deals is whether super-intelligent AI can improve the quality of life for humans.

Synthetic Human Genome: Human In real life, we are far from this sort of technological advancement in AI, there is a growing body of research around synthetic human genome, wherein scientists can create genetic codes for all kinds of creatures. At the moment, scientists are mulling creating synthetic human cells that could serve as a testing base for better vaccines or replacement organs for those who need an organ transplant.

5. Natural Language Generation: The success of any AI system is truly dependent on its understanding of voice commands and the film shows advanced capabilities in Natural Language Generation (NLG), a term that has become hugely popular today, thanks to its enterprise-wide adoption.

NLG in Industry Setting: NLG is a subcategory of natural language processing and focuses on using algorithms to interpret text with a context. Recent advances in deep learning have enabled new capabilities in machines to interpret free text and today the market is flooded with NLG software.

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