I've seen Blade Runner many times but I'm currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for the first time and I find myself wondering something I've never considered before: Why does Deckard need to use the Voight-Kampff test on the remaining escaped androids?

I know he needs to use the test to figure out who is an android and who isn't, but in this case Deckard is given his targets beforehand. And certainly, when an android is asked to take an empathy test, they would know their time is up - it necessarily robs the tester of the element of surprise.

In Chapter 9, Deckard goes to the opera house after Luba Luft.

He reexamined the poop sheet, then leaned back, satisfied. I've now seen my third Nexus-6 android, he realized. This is Luba Luft.

Here, Deckard has the obvious advantage. Luft is unaware that she is being hunted at all. Given he knows that she is an android already, why doesn't he proceed with the next part and kill retire her right away so he can collect the bounty? Why bother with the test?

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    Presumably for the same reason the police still conduct an investigation even if they've got a confession, so that they can go from 99% certain to 100% certain.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 11:00
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    I think Dick wants to continue to return to the test in the narrative to keep it in the forefront of the reader's mind - that helps with the late reversal where we discover that there's no proof that humans possess empathy, either.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 19:33
  • They might as well just move to the Monty Python Witch Test at that point: If the suspect floats it’s a witch but if it sinks and dies, it wasn’t a witch and whoops, our bad no harm, no foul. Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


The list that was provided to Deckard was based off "suspicions" as we can see when Bryant tells Deckard:

"Dave used the Voigt-Kampff Altered Scale in testing out the individuals he suspected (Keep in mind that he only managed to test 3 androids, 2 which he retired and Polokov who shot him). You realize - you ought to, anyhow - that this test isn't specific for the new brain units.

Further down we confirm it is based off assumptions from the notes of Dave:

Bryant turned the notes around so that Rick could see. "Max Polokov," Bryant said. "That's what it calls itself, anyhow. Assuming Dave was right. Everything is based on that assumption, this entire list. And yet the Voigt-Kampff Altered Scale has only been administered to the first three, the two Dave retired and then Polokov. It was while Dave was administering the test; that's when Polokov lasered him." "Which proves that Dave was right," Rick said. Otherwise he would not have been lasered; Polokov would have no motive.

So the list only helps Deckard locate the "suspected" androids. Polokov was retired because he exposed himself when he shot at Dave while taking the test. Deckard uses the test to confirm that his target is indeed an android, even though he may suspect it.

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    "Otherwise he would not have been lasered; Polokov would have no motive." That seems presumptuous. What if Polokov was human but had a panic attack or other reaction that caused him to laser Dave? Humans aren't exactly rational creatures. (Of course, I assume manslaughter is still illegal in the setting, so Polokov would be in trouble anyway even if that were the case.)
    – JAB
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 0:28
  • It could be a posible scenario, but Dave investigated him, until he decided to administer the test. Why would a person who might have a panic attack history have a gun. (Assuming that in the future there is still help for this issue). It would of come up during the test that Polokov was a human because keep in mind that he lasered first out of fear of being found out. He shot while taking the test, not after. He could of passed the test too since the test wasn't specific for the model they were after, and we can see further in the book that Deckard fails in revealing an android. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 11:11

The test is fugazi. The test might "work", it might not, but it is certainly far from foolproof. After all, one of the primary themes of the book(and movie) is that androids and humans do not seem to fit any preconceived notions regarding morality or empathy.

Deep down, Deckard knows this. But he needs the test to justify what he is doing. Not simply because he has to believe that they are androids, but so he can pretend they are actually the monsters they are made out to be.

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