Madelon Sprengnether has commented as follows in the film in her blog 'Minding Memory' (Psychology Today).
challenges our notions of what distinguishes human from technological forms of intelligence
, an increasing concern, if not obsession, of our age.
We depend on technology to an extent that no one in my childhood
could have foreseen, much less imagined. We rely on, but also fear
, the machines that connect us to the internet, search information data bases for us, manage our investment portfolios, keep our calendars, surveil our properties, and spy perhaps, in the middle of the night, on us.
Blade Runner 2049
assumes all of the above, while raising a new and unexpectedly old-fashioned question. If the capacity for personal memory does not distinguish us from artificial forms of intelligence, what does?
As I see it, the question of humanity versus non-humanity is a red herring used by the Sinister Corporations to manipulate both humans and replicants in the film, and by the screenwriter and director to manipulate the audience. The issue is not one of humanity vs. non-humanity, but of mind-control through ideology, using 'humanity' as an empty badge or shibboleth. I comment thus on MS's post:
To all purposes and intents, the film (like the first one) provides us with replicants that we (the audience) cannot but consider human, thus positioning us on their side, rather than on that of the human overlords who keep them as a separate caste and use the term 'human' and its supposed differential quality as a quite arbitrary (as it turns out) and ultimately non-grounded shibboleth, a mere excuse to preserve a caste system through indoctrination and oppression. In that sense, more 'borderline' replicants would be more challenging to the audience, and make for a more eerily uncanny and creepy film, as we (unlike the humans and the replicants themselves) cannot harbor in practical terms any doubts as to their humanity. As I see it, lots of humans have false memories without that making it any the less human, or indeed act like mindless zombies in most questions without ceasing to be human for all that. Or are we humans in fact only partly human, all of the time, or fully human only part of the time? That's even more unsettling. The replicants are among us, or within ourselves!
We also fall in for symbolic shibboleths dividing us between the US and the Them. (Now it comes to my mind that a recent Naci sprout in an imaginary Eastern Republic tried to justify special privileges for their citizens in the name of a gaseous 'Differential Fact', whose only tangible—so to speak— manifestation was the Spoken Shibboleth itself).
That's what we humans do all the time. Until the Replicants learn their lesson, stop wearing their yellow stars, and enter the game of Caste-casting, inventing another shibboleth of their own. It's all a matter of control and resources —and the colonization of the mind. Replicants are admittedly romantically tragic, telegenic, and they give us dreams of electric sheep, but in fact you can make do with real sheep and with the wooly flocks of humans, herded through electronic media. After all, we can pass the Turing Test in reverse quite easily, by acting like a machine—just by acting like a mindless tool, a human robot, replicating the roles that are given us to internalize, and failing to recognize the human behind the social machinery.