Blade Runner’s Theory of Relativity

Blade Runner, set in November 2019, got a lot right about Los Angeles and the future–even the things it got wrong

Here we are in November 2019, and real time has finally caught up with the timeline of one of LA’s ur-texts, the movie Blade Runner, released in 1982 but set this month and this year. Angelenos have been waiting for this. It’s like how freeway signs tell you your exit is coming way, way in advance.

I’m as suspicious as you are, I’m sure, of trying to twist science into a metaphor, but I’m going to do it anyway. Relativity says that space and time are related to the speed of light, and gravity is a side effect of mass. So massive objects like stars create gravity by denting space-time, so much so they’ll bend light right around themselves. Set that star spinning, and its local time frame will stick a little bit, like a wake. That’s called rotational frame-dragging—a massive object carries its past and future with it while it spins forward. My point is Los Angeles drags its own frame. The reason people say it doesn’t have any history is that its timeline gets pulled along, not entirely consensually, as the city bumbles into the future. The future is always present.

And here we are—in a present that happens in a future promised by the past. Have a look around, time travelers. Blade Runner got a lot right; it got a lot wrong. Maybe don’t ask a 1980s sci-fi movie that bumbled into its own brilliance for specific predictions and retrodictions. It wasn’t even really trying to be about the future, was it?

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Posted byarketyp