He tells his boss the story of the wooden horse. I understood that fake memories were given to replicants to help "stabilize" them. But if so, why such a traumatic childhood? And is the reason he knows the memories are fake is because he has been told this? But all replicants know they are replicants so it is not to fool them into thinking they are human.

So if it is to try to give them a normal psyche so that they behave more normally, why this orphanage thing?

Could a traumatic childhood memory help make replicants more tractable? I had only considered the purpose was to fool replicants -- I think but I forget that that is why Rachel had been given extensive memories, she did not know she was one? But Leon, Roy Batty definitely knew they were replicants.

  • 2
    Pretty sure that Leon and Roy Batty were not given false memories - Rachel was a prototype/experiment, Decker was surprised that she was unaware and Tyrell used implanted memories as the explanation. I'm not sure exactly what this means for K, but his memories were created by someone with an ulterior motive.
    – HorusKol
    Sep 25, 2021 at 12:40
  • Leon I thought had photographs that were important to him because they substantiated his fake memories. I could by the way see that in order to have a normal, functioning adult mind, even replicants who knew that they were replicants would need what real humans have: memories of a childhood.
    – releseabe
    Sep 26, 2021 at 2:29
  • @releseabe Weren't Leon's photographs (or some of them) of actual events that had happened since they arrived on earth? I thought Deckard scanned them for clues about the apartment that the replicant gang had been staying at Sep 27, 2021 at 16:02

4 Answers 4


“More human than human”, was the motto of the Tyrell Corporation. Having implanted memories made them more human. One way this is shown is that it takes Deckard many more V-K questions than usual to determine that Rachael is a replicant.

So the memories were implanted to make a better product and thereby increase the sales and profits for the Tyrell Corporation.

  • My question is whether the fake memories are known to be fake by the replicant -- it seems like replicants know they are replicants so the memories are just something for them to have to, as you suggest, help make them more human. But in the case of K in 2049, is there any explanation for giving a replicant memories of a traumatic childhood?
    – releseabe
    Sep 26, 2021 at 2:19
  • Rachael didn’t know she was a replicant, and I believe that was the intention of the design. I think the replicants of 2049 are not in the intended state. As in, they weren’t given false memories despite knowing they are replicants. They weren’t meant to know, and the false memories were meant to help make them unaware. But something has gone wrong and by 2049 it’s the worst of both worlds: replicant existential angst and false memory emotional baggage. Sep 26, 2021 at 2:22
  • 2
    Perhaps the traumatic orphanage memories of the woman were deliberately snuck into the minds of Wallace's replicants -- he thought he was paying for birthday parties but she had some subversive reason to sneak in some real (and as we are told, illegal) memories of her own. If there is a novelization, perhaps this is addressed.
    – releseabe
    Sep 26, 2021 at 2:27

Most likely, it comes down to the "Nature vs Nurture":

In the context of the nature vs. nurture debate, “nature” refers to biological/genetic predispositions’ impact on human traits, and nurture describes the influence of learning and other influences from one’s environment

In this case it is not as much "versus" but "together with": Replicants are designed with specific tasks in mind, from physical work, through "pleasure models" to genius strategists. But while it is probably easy to create someone with bigger musculature or more efficient brain, the psychological part is much more difficult. You can manipulate hormones to make someone more docile, aggressive or promiscuous, but how to teach someone to look for justice, fight with courage or stay loyal?

We, humans, are in a huge part modified by our experiences, which might be often visible in siblings, that might have a completely different personalities created by their upbringing, which can different sharply, if one of them has experienced a significant trauma during childhood. In this case, K has a memory when he stood up to a bunch of bullies - something that would be commendable to a future police officer. So even while he knows that it is not a true memory, it still has influence on his behaviour, as it has taught him to stand to what he believes is right.

  • There's also a lot of focus with K on the stability of his emotional state (he's subjected to tests to gage this), and I imagine those memories are intended to contribute to that (that's how I remember Tyrell originally explaining it). The fact that K (and other replicants with implanted memories) know that they are fake is neither here nor there - it's apparent that to K, they still seem tangibly real Sep 27, 2021 at 16:05

The memories seem to serve a range of purposes.

As parables, allowing the Replicants to compare (fictional) past situations with their present experiences.

A MEMORY, LIGHTLY DIGITIZED: K swimming in the rough ocean as a teen. Nearly drowning. Fear. Salt.


ANA: A fake. An ugly fake at that.

K: You can tell that quick.

ANA: Stolen straight off the art book shelf. Detail without mood. Colors are too perfect, the moral too clear -- “keep away from water.” Did it work?

K shakes his head.

ANA: Lazy work.

Blade Runner 2049: Shooting Script (deleted scene)

Happy memories provide an emotional cushion against the hardships of their real lives.

ANA: I was locked in an aseptic cloister at eight. If I wanted to see the world I had to imagine it. I got very good at imagining. Wallace needs my talent to maintain a stable product. “Provide context for unavoidable affect.” I think it’s only kind. Replicants live such hard lives, made to do what we’d rather not. I can’t help your future, but I can give you good memories to think back on and smile. A birthday party.

Ana's incorporated memory seems crafted to create a sense of determination and sedulousness.


K: They find me and beat me to tell them where is it. But I don’t.


BACK TO: K. His eyes open. The spell of memory broken.

K: That’s it.

JOSHI: Little K, fighting for what’s his. That’s a good one... No wonder with you I sometimes forget. Look at me.

The fake memory given to Elle seems to be intended to create obedience (or love) of Wallace.



Some research correlates trauma to development.

  • Memory is fuzzy, inaccurate. Neuroscientist recalls 9/11 misperception and associated 2003 study. Nader's research further proposes how impermanent memory is, altering from each access.
  • Huganir used mice to show that traumatic events creates stronger fear association to the memory. Their research seeks to stop the increased glutamate receptors, and disassociate the fear (and help PTSD victims). So this can mean that to overcome the fuzziness problem above, implanting memories connected with a traumatic event sticks better.
  • Childhood adversity can cause accelerated aging. In the Psychological Bulletin published study, McLaughlin explains earlier puberty could be the evolutionary response to increase species survival. Faster brain development for emotion processing may have aided in threat awareness. This finding identifies detrimental long-term health consequences, but it can be argued whether the faster development outweighs the trade-offs.

Self-identity (character/motivation)

K has one (or more) memory to fill the gap of childhood. Also, the memory mirrors his condition.

  • lost childhood, replicants have adult physiology and don't go through a growth period
  • orphan, not belonging to a family or with his contemporaries. The memory can reflect any feelings of being outside the group.
  • Sapper accuses K of killing your own kind. K responds, only the older models run. K doesn't identify with the Nexus-8 class, and buys into the us versus them. This class hierarchy is displayed again at the police station in the way other officers treat K, and how K addresses Lt. Joshi as Madame. Reminiscent of a servant or second class citizen.
  • accepts he does not have a soul
  • when K tells Joshi the memory has no meaning since it was implanted, it seems K is very self-aware. But at the same time, it poses the question to the audience, Does implanting make it less? what makes it meaningful, authenticity, provenance? Dr. Stenille knows it's real because it is her own, but how can you determine otherwise? it has some similarities to the V-K testing.

Existential /Thematic (what makes us human? memories?)

Memory is a strong theme that goes back to Deckard's photographs on the piano in the original movie. In 2049, it helps explain K's behavior in the society of slave labor, violent rebellions, and engineering obedience.

  • the toy horse is special and a secret that he hides and protects even when threatened and punished
  • K is shown by Joi that uniqueness, though fragile and not on cloud backup, is special (copies are not)
  • when they discover the child, it is clearly the miracle and special, before only real people gave birth
  • which is a contradiction when Joshi orders him to eliminate all traces the child
  • when K meets Dr. Ana Stenille she is the most fragile person, that requires a bubble for protection. She is the toy horse (unicorn is more apt, she is very special) in the waking world.
  • K has to lose everything, Joi, and get beaten to the point of death before he fulfills the words by Freysa about dying for the right cause.

K takes the question about what defines us, from our memories, to our actions define us.

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