In Blade Runner (1982), Deckard used the Voight-Kampff test to detect Replicants. This complicated test verified if their emotional response was appropriate. But they also displayed superhuman capabilities, were shown to take a lot more damage than humans can, and so on.

Why is it so hard to detect them if they have enhanced physical capacity? Wouldn't that enhanced capacity imply some physiological difference? Or why not just test their capacity directly?

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    Personally as a human, I wouldn't want my "physical capacity" to be tested on a replicant scale just because someone's paranoid I'm an android. – Tacroy Oct 19 '12 at 16:16
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    @Tacroy How could I be sure you are an human? Jump on this VO2 max right now and run! – DavRob60 Oct 19 '12 at 16:18

In the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it is said that androids can be detected with a bone marrow sample.

However, the police cannot by law do it on someone on mere suspicions. The Voight-Kampff test is non-invasive, so it's a far preferable method.

  • I had forgotten that; good catch! It seems like its time for me to re-reread that book again... – Beofett Oct 19 '12 at 16:48
  • I find it hard to believe that in world with the capacity of making such advanced machines, they don't even have TSA-style scanners to distinguish humans from androids. – Pier Oct 7 '13 at 17:52
  • another test used is based on the speed of the electrical message going from the hand to the brain. But The Novel say that the only definitive test is bone marrow sample – Edelk May 9 '17 at 15:06
  • @Pier: The word "android" in the novel is used in a different way than what we consider androids today (thanks Star Trek!). In the book androids are merely humans that have been engineered at the cellular level. Note: they're 100% human except that they were never born from a human womb. Androids are machines in exactly the same way you are a machine. – slebetman Oct 12 '17 at 9:54
  • Thanks @slebetman I read the book a long time ago but I don't remember that. Hm I should reread it. – Pier Oct 12 '17 at 15:34

It is much easier to fake a lower capacity than a higher capacity.

How do you test for superhuman strength? All a replicant would have to do is say "this is too heavy for me!" even if it wasn't. You can't put them in situations where they would be harmed by not demonstrating superhuman strength, because anyone who wasn't a replicant would therefore be harmed.

How do you test for an increased capacity to sustain damage? You can't go around beating or shooting people and measure how well they survive.

Even a detailed physical examination is unlikely to detect physiological differences. As we saw from the scene with Chew, the body parts are organic, and the result of genetic engineering. You can't do something as simple as run them under a metal detector.

The most reliable way is to focus on what replicants can't do as well as humans, and that is demonstrate a normal range of emotions.

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    Interesting side note: "All a replicant would have to do is say "this is too heavy for me!" even if it wasn't." is actually hard to do repeatedly without some kind of feedback concerning how much [weight|range of motion|...] is actually involved. Insurance fraud types sometimes subject people with claims of "back pain" and other non-obvious injuries to blind tests in hopes of detecting false claims. But maybe replicants are better at it than natural humans. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Oct 19 '12 at 17:29
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    I was thinking about the Salem Witch Trials as similar tests... If they died during the test, it would be proof enough they weren't a witch... At least they'd get buried in consecrated ground... – Kevin Rubin Oct 20 '12 at 0:31

I do not think that anything depicted could be considered "superhuman". While the average overweight Cheetos-eating couch potato would be incapable of these feats, they're all within the limits of what's humanly possible (though at the edge). Extraordinary athletes in peak condition would be able to match them.

In other words, the structures and muscles that allow them to do this won't appear inhuman when examined. Probably not even under a microscope.

Hunting for replicatants in this fashion would be identical to getting rid of every exceptional athlete in the world.

  • Are exceptional athlete able to grabs a boiling egg with her bare hand without harm? – DavRob60 Oct 19 '12 at 16:33
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    @DavRob60 Read the last sentence of the section you linked. If you consider "insane" to be a subset of "exceptional", then perhaps the answer is implied to be "yes". – Beofett Oct 19 '12 at 16:43
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    I don't think there's such a thing as "Blade Runner canon", but if there was, I doubt that would count (mostly because I haven't read it :P Regarding the egg scene, keep in mind that it can take hours, or even days, for the damage from a burn from boiling water to show. Of course, we see her later, and I don't recall seeing her bandaged... so: possible, yes. Plausible, no. – Beofett Oct 19 '12 at 16:59
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    @Beofett: I suspect that many psychopaths would fail the Voight-Kampff test as well. – ruakh Oct 19 '12 at 19:30
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    @ruakh You're probably right. – John O Oct 19 '12 at 20:26

I know this is an old thread, but I don't think we've explored one possible physical difference - resistance to high and low temperatures.

In one scene, Leon puts his hand into a deadly freezing substance, but doesn't suffer any effects. In another, Roy puts his hand into boiling water. Wouldn't their skin have to be different to withstand that?

If it was, you should be able to take a small sample of skin and see the differences under a microscope.

  • And if they're human and fail the test? – Möoz Oct 12 '17 at 10:33
  • You mean the psych test, or a microscope test? I think it's easier to fail a psych test. :) – Pawel Kowaluk Oct 13 '17 at 11:10

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