THE VIRTUAL HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL BEINGS
computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I can sing it for you.
HAL goes on to sing the song “Daisy, Daisy” with its telling line “I’m half-crazy.” It is a moment of pathos, and a significant change from what Frankenstein’s Being faced, because apparently HAL—unlike the Being—has been raised and nurtured like a child.
Other presentations from the 1970s to the early 2000s extended the possibilities of human simulation to the body as well as the mind. This led to new themes, such as a robot deliberately designed for murder. A mechanical assassin standing eight feet tall and made of gleaming metal could hardly go unnoticed, but a creature that looked human while capable of unrelenting violence was a different proposi- tion. Such violent beings appeared in the films Blade Runner and the
erminator series. Counterbalancing stories, and a further examination of the intersection of the human and the artificial, came with the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man and the 1987 film RoboCop.
Blade Runner, based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick and directed by Ridley Scott, has reached cult status partly because of its setting. It takes place in the Los Angeles of the year 2019, which—like the city in Metropolis—combines soaring towers with a gritty, richly conceived sublevel inhabited by all races and types, including the criminal.The city is background for the interplay between Rick Deckard, the blade runner—that is, a special policeman who hunts down and kills rogue bio-engineered androids called replicants—and his prey, the android Roy Batty.
Batty is the highest physical and mental type of replicant: a strong, quick, and ruthless combat model, that can also quote William Blake. With other renegade replicants, it has hijacked a spacecraft and killed the humans aboard, to return to Earth from a distant planet. Batty is driven by impending death because its creator, Eldon Tyrell of the Tyrell Corporation, has designed the replicants to live for four years only, and the deadline is approaching.