How accurately does the science in Blade Runner reflect the current understanding of genetics?

4 Answers 4


Most of Philip K Dick's works aren't hard Sci-Fi in the least. Philip K Dick usually focused on philosophical problems like identity and the nature of reality, rather than on technical details.

I've read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", and there is little mention of genetics in the novel. Keep in mind that the novel and the movie only share a few common scenes, characters, and plot threads.

The movie itself doesn't go into any great detail about how the androids are constructed. We are told that the creators of the 'fake' lifeforms can leave their signature on the scales of a pet snake.

Also in the novel and movie is the suggestion that the creators could write fake memories into a new life form, but there isn't much scientific talk in either about how this is possible.


From the Roy/Tyrell conversation:

Tyrell: [Tyrell explains to Roy why he can't extend his lifespan] The facts of life... to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.

Batty: Why not?

Tyrell: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutation give rise to revertant colonies, like rats leaving a sinking ship; then the ship... sinks.

Batty: What about EMS-3 recombination?

Tyrell: We've already tried it - ethyl, methane, sulfinate as an alkylating agent and potent mutagen; it created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before it even left the table.

Batty: Then a repressor protein, that would block the operating cells.

Tyrell: Wouldn't obstruct replication; but it does give rise to an error in replication, so that the newly formed DNA strand carries with it a mutation - and you've got a virus again... but this, all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.

Batty: But not to last.

Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long - and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy. Look at you: you're the Prodigal Son; you're quite a prize!

Batty: I've done... questionable things.

Tyrell: Also extraordinary things; revel in your time.

Batty: Nothing the God of biomechanics wouldn't let you into heaven for.

30 years and several revolutions in genetics and genomics have passed since then. I believe that the line "A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established" has been proven false since then. But in other ways we've gotten closer, although we're at this point trying to understand things, not so much not modifying them, and that's the deepest they get into the science of it.

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    I think Replicants work differently genetically. I could go into it but I don't want to bore anyone and I am cramming for my Voigh-Kampff Monday at 9 frigging AM. Empathy is so hard to fake. Stupid example test questions -- are they really going to ask me about a tortoise?
    – Jeff
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 20:50
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    Assumes facts not in evidence. Same color blood, same form factor. Only empathy and audience-but-not-character-visible trademark eye flare distinguish human from replicant. Eyes might be post-creation additions rather than what was generated -- Chew made the Nexus 6 eyes -- but there's nothing to indicate it isn't a variation of existing genetics. NOBODY was expecting CRISPR until it happened. Hey, good luck on your V-K test. Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 21:23
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    Thanks for your kind wishes but I failed. They are not letting me take it again.
    – Jeff
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 21:46

Not at all. Dick was an idea guy and a people guy, not a science guy.


Dick wasn't concerned with the hard science behind his concepts. They just seem to exist and we suspend disbelief to focus on the philosophy and people. In the book, they are called androids which is probably not appropriate if they are completely organic, so Dick did make a mistake there. Similar to James Cameron's calling Terminators cyborgs instead of androids. A mistake which Cameron has acknowledged without fuss.

Most of Dick's SF was Earthbound, even if it was established that space travel was a regular part of their future. But Dick just didn't care about the technical details. If he did, he probably would have been much less prolific given the time it takes to research that sort of thing.

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