Did Turing Dream of Electric Sheep?

The ‘Voight Kampff Empathy Test’ sounds like a super fancy real psychological test, right? Well, if you’re a fan of Harrison Ford’s chest hair, you know it’s a test from the science fiction movie/book Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?… If you’re not familiar, check it out…

It’s basically a series of moral questions monitored by a variety of machines (one monitors eye dilation, the other heart rate, etc.) to determine if the interviewee is an android or a human.

This test may sound familiar if you’re also a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, as he recently starred as Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician and father of modern computer science. Turing came up with a Turing Test, only briefly discussed in the film, which is a series of tests to determine if a machine is capable of exhibiting similar levels of intelligence to that of a human. Basically the Turing Test consists of three players all participating in the ‘imitation game’ (title drop!): player A, B, and C. Player C is the interrogator and player A and B consist of a human and a computer. Player C is tasked with determining which player is the human and which is the computer through a series of written questions. Most people consider the ability of a computer to pass a Turing Test an indication that the computer has reached the level of human intelligence.


So, how would this test work in the Dick/Scott universe? Well, presumably Replicants would typically fail the Turing Test if, of course, the interviewer were an experienced Blade Runner who knew the right questions to ask. The main differences between these two tests is the Voight Kampff test examines emotional reactions to questions where as the Turing Test examines answers to questions. The new Nexus-6 models are more advanced than previous androids however, we know this as Deckard explains that the determination of the interrogation of Rachael took five times longer than usual. This suggests that these versions, or at least the Rachael model may have been able to beat the Turing Test. I guess this begs the question, is the Player C in this case (Deckard) a human or a computer? Does this change the legitimacy of a test? The world will never know.


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