VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Welfare and Precarious Work’ by Chloe King.

Unlike the other offerings so far, this essay actually resonates with people who are working class. Instead of waffling on about climate change and other shibboleths of the global elite classes, King focuses on real issues that affect real Kiwis: poor wages, poor security of work and a pitiful excuse for a social safety net.

This essay uses anecdotal examples of young Kiwis trying to make it in a workplace that is forcing them into ever worse conditions. The nature of work in New Zealand is becoming ever more stressful as things like the 90-day firing law undermine employment security, and the essay does a good job of showing how this leads to increased rates of mental illness.

It also correctly draws attention to the cruelty of the Fifth National Government. Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms now force people seeking a benefit to fill out a 48-page form of questions – obviously a considerable challenge to the kind of person whose literacy levels place them in precarious economic positions.

King also speaks to a very real sense of outrage when she writes about how mentally ill people are often bullied back into the workforce well before they are ready – a short-sighted approach whose shortcomings become obvious when the inevitable next mental breakdown occurs.

Describing something she calls “constricted choice”, King details a very real problem in the modern workforce: our choice of jobs has increased, but the average quality of those jobs has plummeted, meaning that Kiwis are essentially forced into taking poorly paid work out of duress. The fact that we have a wide choice of crap jobs doesn’t actually make it any better.

Ultimately, King hits the bulls-eye when she states simply that “Workers deserve to be paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect.” She is right when she points out that the nature of workplace relations in New Zealand have deteriorated to the point where the emphasis is on coercing workers into obedience rather than encouraging them.

The “politics of selfishness” is a very real thing, especially in New Zealand, and King rightly points out that she’s not asking for much when she posits that “no-one should work and be poor at the same time.” It’s not much to ask for, but we’re still not getting it, and the essay concludes with a call to collective action.

In summary, Chloe King’s piece strikes much harder and more accurately at the heart of the issue than the previous efforts in this book: poor living and working conditions right here, right now, not vague threats of what might happen in 50 years’ time. It is easy to get the impression that the left is going to do much better by proposing a universal basic income than it is by going on about climate change, and so for their sake they’d do better promoting voices like King’s.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand IV

This reading carries on from here.

The fourth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Climate Change and Just Transition’ by Edward Miller. Keeping with the theme of the book so far, Miller describes himself as “a political activist with a keen interest in global justice,” and declares the enemy as “the deeply held commitment of large businesses and governments to maintaining economic growth at all costs.”

Miller laments that neoliberalism has made conditions worse for the “most vulnerable of society,” and it is for them who Miller claims to speak. There is already a problem with this, as anyone who has spent time around the most vulnerable of society would know, and it’s that people with pressing, immediate problems couldn’t care less about things like “global justice”.

Writing of the need to sacrifice economic growth for the sake of lowering our carbon emissions, Miller suggests that he is completely engrossed in the bubble of middle-class privilege, like many Green supporters. The practical reality is that sacrificed economic growth means workers getting fired, hours being cut, health care being postponed or cancelled, and children going hungry – considerations often lost on the young and carefree.

Action on climate change is described as something “we so desperately need” – further evidence that Miller lives in an echo chamber. What we need are better wages, better houses, and better attitudes to mental healthcare and to child abuse. Problems with proximate causes and clear solutions. Focusing on problems with clear solutions will all us to ensure that our energies are not wasted from virtue signalling about issues we cannot affect.

Much like other commentators in this book so far, Miller attacks neoliberalism as if it was an evil that sprang from nowhere upon an unsuspecting world in the mid 1980s. This is perhaps to be expected of young writers who are yet to comprehend that history and the world existed before they were born, and were not things discovered by them.

But it’s difficult to take seriously a work that does not place neoliberalism in its context of the complete collapse of the Soviet Union and the West’s increasing awareness that Communism had directly led to the starvation of tens of millions of people. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Communism appeared to the world as a monstrous evil that had, after almost half a century, finally been defeated. It was natural that things move in the direction away from it.

Almost certainly, this movement away from Communism went too far, as political movements tend to do, and so neoliberalism does need to be balanced. But we don’t need to balance it with economic and social policies that have established historical precedents of failure.

The idea of returning the means of production to the masses via an unelected ideological elite that purports to speak for those masses is known to be suicidal, but Miller avoids this easy fantasy, making a successful point when he promotes the idea of a universal basic income by means of the Government printing money.

Unfortunately, the fate of those other men who have proposed debt-free Government-backed money (McKinley, Lincoln, Hitler, Kennedy, Gadaffi) is ignored here. Perhaps this book is not thick enough for the kind of investigation necessary for such a thing.

Charlie Manson: So Close And Yet So Far

Charles Manson: got a lot right, got a lot wrong

Charles Manson: thought by some to be a genius, thought by many to be a maniac. Only a select few realised that he was both. In his actions relating to the infamous Family killings, Manson almost showed humanity a new way of relating to power, but a poor choice of target disqualify his actions from being considered anarcho-homicidalism.

Much like Adolf Hitler, Manson kept a coterie of devoted followers on account of an extraordinary level of charisma and penchant for giving lectures about the degeneracy into which the outside world had fallen. Also much like Adolf Hitler, Manson had a lot of excellent ideas that lacked execution, with consequences that the world would not forget.

One of the excellent ideas that Manson had was that people ought to rise up and challenge the control system, on account of its incredible corruption and the lies and destruction that it has wrought upon the Earth. Rising up against liars and thieves who have wormed themselves into positions of authority is the basis of anarcho-homicidalism, and no doubt Manson played on natural anarcho-homicidalist sentiments when he persuaded Watson et al. to do what they did.

Nobody can stand in judgement, they can play like they’re standing in judgement. They can play like they stand in judgement and take you off and control the masses, with your human body. They can lock you up in penitentiaries and cages and put you in crosses like they did in the past, but it doesn’t amount to anything. What they’re doing is, they’re only persecuting a reflection of themselves. They’re persecuting what they can’t stand to look at in themselves, the truth. – Charles Manson

Some might argue that Manson was an anarcho-homicidalist, on account of that much of his stated ideology was anarchic, and so the homicidal actions of the Family were also anarchism. It could indeed be argued that the Family actions were anarchic, because behaving in that manner is demonstrating very clearly that one has no rulers, but actions only constitute legitimate anarcho-homicidalism if they are conducted against someone making an attempt to enslave another.

It’s not really fair to target members of the cultural elite on that basis alone, for the reason that they are not the ones holding the reins of power. Sharon Tate was an actress – an influential position admittedly – but no-one took orders from her. She didn’t threaten anyone into coercion; she didn’t try to enslave anyone. She was just a pretty face that people paid money to look at for a few hours.

There was perhaps an element of jealousy in Manson’s selection of target, in that he had found it difficult to break into Los Angeles cultural circles, and so chose to target those who had. Such motivations cannot be considered anarcho-homicidal in any real sense, because they didn’t target anyone who held real coercive power, and were not motivated by the ideal of liberation.

This absence of coercive power meant that the people the Manson Family killed were not aggressors in any real sense, and therefore killing them could not be justified in self defence.

If Manson had targeted politicians instead, things would be very different. America was embroiled in the Vietnam War in 1969, and the Government was drafting young men to fight it without their consent, on pain of imprisonment. Killing any prominent warhawk or supporter of the Vietnam War would have been a legitimate act of anarcho-homicidalism, and would have been much more effective than abusing the draftees when they returned.

Charles Manson and his Family had more or less the right idea; their major error lay in the selection of a target that was not directly trying to enslave them.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand II

This reading carries on from here.

The second essay in The Interregnum is called ‘Speech and Silence in the Public Sphere’ by Andrew Dean. It recounts the story of the abuse copped by Eleanor Catton in the wake of her criticism of the direction the county was taking in 2015, and how this is indicative of deteriorating levels of public discourse.

Although most of the essay is devoted to quoting Philip Catton, which makes one wonder why Professor Catton didn’t write the essay himself, it aptly summarises the state of the cultural wars in New Zealand and in the West. The narrative of neoliberalism is triumphant; its victims are marginalised because their suffering goes against this narrative.

I was in Philip Catton’s History of Science class at the University of Canterbury in the year 2000. It’s curious to think about what the professor teaching that class 100 years from now will say about our time, and about the quality of our public discourse. Dean is right: our public discourse has degenerated to a shameful level, even as the Internet has theoretically made it easier than ever to share science, knowledge and truth.

Catton and Dean both have a point when they say that inequality has made the level of discourse more degenerate. The greater the inequality in a society, the more criticism of it is dismissed as “whinging” by those at the top and their lackeys in the mainstream media. Furthermore, the greater the inequality the more society becomes stratified into subgroups that speak their own dialect, so that it becomes difficult to communicate between different positions on the hierarchy.

The worse any one group of people is doing, the less their voices fit the neoliberal narrative that “Everything is better than ever, so spend spend spend!” And so, the more their voices are silenced by a mainstream media that is beholden to the same capitalist interests who support neoliberalism.

Dean refers to the same pattern that Dan McGlashan calls the “general disenfranchisement rule” in the demographic analysis Understanding New Zealand. It’s a feedback loop in which increasing inequality causes the people in the lower socioeconomic demographics to lose faith in the belief that the system represents them at all, which leads to a decreased turnout rate in elections, which leads to a system that represents them even less, leading to a further decreased rate and so on.

He also mentions the effect that neoliberalism had has on the discourse at our universities. Instead of acting as the conscience of the nation, our universities have to compete for students in order to get funding, which means that they have to present a certain image. In the case of New Zealand universities, which get a lot of international students from Asia, it is almost impossible to have a public discussion about the need for cannabis law reform.

All in all, this essay is pleasingly accurate and concise, and ends by pointing out that not only it is necessary to point out the failings of neoliberalism it is also getting harder to do because of the silencing of dissenting voices to the mainstream narrative.

If Charles Manson Was a Serial Killer, What Was George W Bush?

Charles Manson: responsible for 999,991 fewer deaths than George W Bush

News media are reporting that one of the world’s most “notorious serial killers”, Charles Manson, has died in prison. Described as a “mass murderer” by many, including Wikipedia, Manson was found guilty for a string of murders committed by followers of his Family cult, even though it was only ever alleged that he ordered the killings. But if Manson was a serial killer for ordering the deaths of nine people, then what is George W Bush, who ordered the deaths of a million?

It’s well known that Charles Manson never killed anyone himself (at least he was never tried of a murder that he committed himself). At his famous trial, where he faced several counts of murder, it was never even alleged that he killed anyone. From the beginning it was asserted that the Family members had killed on his authority, and so Manson was as good as guilty even if he hadn’t literally murdered.

One obvious question arises from this. If being the leader of a hippie cult that killed nine people is enough to get a man put in prison for life, how has George W Bush got away with being the leader of a statist cult that killed over a million people? Surely, according to the same logic that was used to imprison Manson, George W Bush ought to stand trial for several hundreds of thousands of counts of murder and up to a million counts of manslaughter?

All of the US soldiers that killed people in Iraq from 2003 onward justify what they did because they had vowed to follow orders. They had sworn to do whatever they were told by their superior officers (unless it was illegal), and their superior officers had done the same, all the way up to the first link in the chain of command, which is the President. It was the President’s word that got the invasion started, and the President’s authority that justified it.

So if the actions of Manson’s followers made him guilty of murder, then the actions of George W Bush’s followers have also made him guilty of murder.

Even worse, Charles Manson had very little in the way of guidance that he could have drawn on to make a better decision. He was the son of an alcoholic teenage prostitute, and so wasn’t raised to learn how to make good judgments. What’s George W Bush’s excuse for so callously ordering a military action that killed over a million people? He was the son of a president himself, so should have learned better judgment than anyone else.

Moreover, the people of the world demonstrated in no uncertain terms that they thought the invasion was a bad idea. Over a million people protested in London, and three million in Rome – still the largest protest in world history. The whole planet told George W Bush that what he proposed to do was going to be a humanitarian catastrophe – so he can’t say that he wasn’t warned by the world that he was making an error.

So if Charles Manson was worthy of all the hatred he endured because he was guilty of possessing a monstrously arrogant disregard to the value of human life, then George W Bush is worthy of a hundred thousand times more.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand I

The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand is a small book of essays that is for sale at the Volume bookstore in Nelson, by Bridget Williams Books. The blurb on the back asks the question of whether New Zealand’s political settlement is beginning to fray, and purports to “interrogate” the future from a youth perspective.

The first essay, by editor Morgan Godfery, is called “The Voices of A New Generation” and opens by relating an anti-TPPA demonstration in Auckland. It breathlessly describes the excitement of thousands of diverse people coming together to oppose the signing of the multilateral trade agreement.

Reading this piece, something about it speaks to the lack of purpose that the young generation now has. The fight against apartheid seemed meaningful at the time; it seemed a great evil was being fought. A law that says that a large section of the population are second-class humans, for no other reason than skin colour, seems like the sort of arbitrary and cruel treatment that everyone should be against.

But can the same be said of international trade? Who really understands it well enough to decide? And so what if “trade agreements are signed”?

By the fourth page of this essay there is already a Marx quote, which bodes poorly. The reader gets the sentiment that the new voice here is going to be an echo of the same social justice warriors seen overseas. If not, why oppose something as vague and nebulous as the TPPA, instead of protesting about poor wages, poor housing, poor mental health outcomes?

The essay finds its feet when it hones in on the real enemy: neoliberalism. Godfery mentions the damage done to the national psyche by the Mother of All Budgets, and it feels like he speaks for many when he says that the children condemned to poverty by Richardson’s Budget are now adults, some of us with our own children.

But again, this speaks to the confusion in the New Zealand Left. What to make of the fact that the signing of the TPPA was protested under a National Government, with many prominent Labour supporters in attendance, and then the Labour Government went and signed it anyway? No-one knows yet if Labour will get criticised for their evident support of neoliberalism, or whether people will let it pass.

This introductory essay declares that the book is for those who have “a fierce desire to radically reshape politics.” It proposes that instead of focusing on “returns on investment”, that we return to a politics of “higher principles and values”.

This is all very well, but the question that strikes one is: whose higher principles and values? Because usually when the working class votes for people promising to govern by higher principles, it turns out that those principles only apply to a chosen few groups, and if you’re not one of them then you’re “privileged” (“privileged” means “untermensch” in social justice speak”.

We can see this now with Jacinda Ardern’s decision to give Manus Island “refugees” her highest priority, while saying nothing about the Kiwis suffering from the illegal status of medicinal cannabis. Unfortunately for medicinal cannabis users, official victim status has so far eluded them, and so they continue to be ignored.

Concluding with half a dozen mentions of the word “love”, this essay promises that the book will make for interesting reading for the sake of political philosophy. However, it’s not possible to believe that a book that opens by quoting several Marxists could be entirely trustworthy or honest, even if it is earnest.

It remains to see what these higher principles are.

Are Muslims Bigots, According to the Left?

The acid test for not being a bigot has, for decades, been one’s attitude to homosexuality – but most Muslims fail here

Throughout the Australia same-sex marriage referendum there was a constant refrain: Don’t be a stupid, vicious, hateful bigot, and make sure you vote Yes. Only through sheer bigotry could a person vote No. Only by way of an unprincipled, mindless, unforgivable hate of gay people could a person possibly be inspired to vote against love.

The entire Yes campaign was driven by a fear of far-right extremism. The spectre of white supremacism was even raised. Apparently skinheads and Nazis were ready to storm the streets to give marginalised homosexuals a kicking, cheered on by the same rich old white Christian people who have oppressed everyone else going back to the dawn of time.

But all of this “Love trumps hate”-style rhetoric backfired when it turned out that there were very strong correlations, measured at the electoral level, between being Muslim and voting against same-sex marriage. Notably, the West Sydney electorates with the largest numbers of Muslims were the same electorates to record the highest proportion of No votes.

Statistics showed us that Muslims hate gay people and don’t consider them worthy of equal rights. It’s as simple as that. After all, in Muslim countries they often hate them so much they kill them, so there’s no surprise whatsoever that in a multicultural Australia that grants religious freedom to Islam, some Australians will use that freedom to hate gay people.

This raises an obvious question: are Muslims bigots?

After all, we have just spent months being told that people who were against same-sex marriage were bigots, and that the bigotry of homophobia has to be exterminated from modern Australia at any cost.

Over and over, we are told that bigots have no place in modern society, that all political views considered bigotry will have to be relinquished, that if a person doesn’t relinquish a bigoted opinion they are evil, and can be considered identical to Hitler in kind if not in degree.

Moreover, any person holding a bigoted viewpoint is automatically so evil that it’s legitimate to abuse them, to shun them, to lie about them, and to altogether treat them as if they are subhuman for having committed an unforgivable moral failure out of no motivation but pure malice.

So what do we make of the fact that, as per the definition of bigot that the Left has been using up until now, Muslims are extremely bigoted?

The obvious response is to say that gay people knew that already. Muslims are, after all, Abrahamists, and Abrahamism has a scriptural command to murder homosexuals in the Book of Leviticus of the Hebrew Bible, the same place that most Christian anti-gay hate arises from.

The less obvious response is to be quietly grateful that the Muslims of West Sydney are not ten times greater in number, because that might have shifted the balance of the referendum to 49-51 against.

These West Sydney suburbs are, ironically, Leftist strongholds, so the hate that the Left is always accusing the working class of – of being exclusive, discriminatory, bigoted, cruel and malicious – is present in greatest concentrations within their own territories!

What Does it Mean For The Left That Muslims Hate Homosexuals?

The Australian same-sex marriage referendum demonstrated something unpalatable to the left – Muslims, even more than other Abrahamists, hate homosexuals

A horrific realisation is slowly dawning on Western leftists; something that, after the results of the Australian same-sex marriage referendum, can no longer be denied. The anti-conservative alliance that the Left has become claims to represent both homosexuals and Third World immigrants – but the problem is that most of those Third World immigrants despise homosexuals.

This column has previously raised the question of whether homosexuals can still be considered part of the victim class owing to the vast increase in their fortunes over the last four decades. Homosexuals are now over-represented in the New Zealand Parliament by a factor of 250%, and their average income is considerably higher than that of the average citizen in most Western countries.

Before the referendum, the Australian Left made a lot of noise about stopping white Christian bigots from spreading their homophobia and hate. So they got a lot of egg on their faces when it turned out that their beloved Muslims and Third World immigrants turned out to be the most strongly opposed to same-sex marriage.

This could eventually mean that homosexuals start to move their allegiances to the right.

Already it’s known that white people support conservative parties in much greater numbers than they do leftist/liberal parties, and since it’s really only white culture that accepts homosexuals, and considering that the average Western homosexual is wealthier than the average Western non-homosexual, the next logical step for the homosexual bloc is to shift allegiances to the right wing.

After all, it doesn’t really make sense for homosexuals in the West to facilitate the mass importation of people who consider them animals and who will vote to take homosexual rights away. Gay white men are already finding themselves increasingly more welcome in right-wing circles of employed middle-class people and increasingly less welcome in left-wing circles of brown-skinned religious fundamentalists.

No-one should be surprised to see a wholesale shift in gay loyalties in the West over the next few decades, from liberal to conservative. One could argue that it already has started to happen.

What this will mean for the Left is increased tension between factions, up until a point where that tension becomes insurmountable. You simply cannot have an alliance where one party wants to throw the other party off a rooftop by command of God, and so leftists will have to choose between homosexuals on the one hand and Muslims and Africans on the other.

What this will mean for the Right is also increased tension, but also an opportunity. The tension will arise from the fact that religious conservatives do not like homosexuals, but at the same time can see an opportunity to gain their support on account of having so much in common, and therefore will get a sniff of power.

What this should mean for the Left is a coming together under the banner of a shared value, such as universal compassion. Some would argue that this has been done already or at least has been intended to happen but it’s simply impossible when one faction wants to eradicate another one. Muslims and homosexuals cannot co-exist in one political movement, that is now clear.

If the Left is to survive the 21st century and provide a realistic alternative to globalist hypercapitalism, which is currently rampant, it has to stop being so soft and recognise that some boundaries are necessary to prevent total chaos. One of those boundaries might well be the blanket exclusion of people from cultures that do not place a high moral value on tolerance and compassion.

Technology Has Changed The Nature of Human Intelligence

Kraftwerk sang about the fusion of man and machine in the 1980s, but even they couldn’t anticipate how the Internet would change our brains

People used to have a reasonably clear idea of what intelligence is. As measured by school examinations, intelligence is primarily a matter of remembering and recalling disparate pieces of information and, for bonus points, knitting as many of these pieces as information as possible together into a pattern that can be communicated. This was the approach taken by the Chinese Mandarin schools, and it made perfect sense – until now.

It used to be that having a good memory was the most important thing. This is natural if you lived in a time of informational scarcity, as we did for most of our history. Nature didn’t offer a lot of second chances to remember things; if you didn’t remember that crocodiles were often seen in this river, or what your grandmother said about not sticking your hand in empty logs where snakes could be, you probably weren’t long for this world.

Most of the time none of us had any idea what the fuck was going on. Only during the last 5% of the human experience has anyone managed to get anything written down, and even then mass literacy has only been a thing for a hundred years or so, and even then only in wealthy industrialised countries. The concept of being overwhelmed by knowledge was impossible outside of the most rigorous monastic setting.

The Internet has turned this entire equation on its head. It is like a gigantic non-corporeal memory comprising the sum total of human knowledge, never further than a few clicks away. No-one really needs to memorise everything anymore, when they could spend that same precious study time learning to understand the fundamentals of their discipline better.

During most of the time that people have been students, it used to be that you could open your skull and allow it to be filled. Anyone taking the time to speak to you probably had your best interests in mind, and so an atmosphere of high trust existed, and students could be more receptive.

Now, the most important thing is being able to discern truth from bullshit. On the Internet, people are lining up to shovel shit into your head. Not only are there the advertisers who have been a plague on mass media since the 1950s, but there are government propagandists – both foreign and “your own” government, religionists with a new audience, corporate intelligence agents, social justice warriors and anyone else with a drum to beat.

So you have to be more discriminating. After all, there’s no point in being open minded when you’re continually exposed to things like Flat Earth, which really only makes a person more stupid the more they think about it.

The more lies and propaganda there are around, the more intelligence becomes about being able to quickly and cleanly distinguish lies from truth, and to avoid logical errors like the balance fallacy, in which a person gives credence to a false position merely because a lot of people are bleating about it.

Intelligence is now about figuring out when you’re being lied to. Can you tell truth from bullshit when it comes to vaccine claims, for example? How do you know? How do you really know?

Now more than ever, what distinguishes the smart from the slow is how to accurately grade the reliability of the information that comes into their awareness and not simply accept it because the television says so and not simply dismiss it because the Government says so. Now it’s all about the metainformation – the information about the information – which gives us a second dimension by which to measure knowledge.

This will lead to an evolutionary process in which people who adapt to the new paradigm of information being abundant and unreliable, instead of rare and reliable, will outcompete those in the old paradigm of mindlessly memorising things.


Vince McLeod is the author of the cyberpunk novel The Verity Key, a story based on his psychological research into whether it’s possible for devices to control people’s thoughts and actions by satellite.

Blade Runner 2049 Shows That Cyberpunk Will Live Forever

A Blade Runner for a new generation poses a set of moral dilemmas for a new generation – as cyberpunk always will

Film pundits are divided over whether or not Blade Runner 2049 can be counted as a successful film. On the one hand, it lost $80,000,000 at the box office; on the other, it has an 8.4/10 rating on the IMDB. This essay argues that not only is Blade Runner 2049 a great film, but it is evidence that the cyberpunk genre will live forever.

Cyberpunk, like Satanism and Test match cricket, is never going to find mass appeal among a Western population that hates thinking. All of these genres are acquired tastes that only a particular sort of person finds interesting – and then, they usually find it fascinating. So it’s entirely appropriate that Blade Runner 2049 did poorly at the box office but extremely well among cyberpunk fans who have a sophisticated appreciation for the genre.

Cyberpunk will always have a place in popular culture, as long as advancing technology continues to pose us moral dilemmas that bring with them the possibility of horror. New technologies will keep putting people in novel and unique situations without any previous example of how to conduct oneself, and they will continue to provide new methods to control, exploit, dominate and destroy.

Even though most new technological advances will be for peaceful and wholesome purposes, we can predict, to paraphrase William Gibson, that the street will continue to find its own uses for things, and therefore there will always be expression for people using technology to get any edge on each other.

Which means that advancing technology will continue to produce moral dilemmas that make for fascinating fiction.

The moral dilemma at the heart of Blade Runner was whether or not artificial humans could ever be considered real people, and so whether or not there was ever a moral obligation to treat them as equals, in the way that most people feel a moral obligation to treat other people as equals. Roy Batty was outraged that humans might have engineered him to have such an artificially short life span, and viewers were likely to concede that he had a point.

For whatever reason, the collective consciousness appears to have concluded that replicants are not, and can never be, conscious. Fair enough, but the moral dilemma at the heart of Blade Runner 2049 is whether or not the offspring of replicants that can breed are conscious. The characters in the film seem to glibly assume that any creature that is born must have a soul, but the question is never discussed at length by them, leaving such ruminations for the viewer.

Blade Runner 2049 poses this question in a believable and terrifying manner, and forces the reader to consider Philip K Dick’s fundamental question of science fiction: not “What if…”, but “My God, what if…” My God, what if artificial creatures that managed to replicate were actually conscious in the same way that we are conscious? What if acting to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings in the universe meant that we had to consider the offspring of replicants?

Cyberpunk is always going to raise questions like this, because it will always be true that somewhere there is a megacorporation with pockets deep enough to finance bleeding-edge technological research and application away from the watchful eyes of the government or the public, for whatever dark and twisted motives the world can surmise.

Because it did such an excellent job of posing such deep questions in a way that chills the spine of the viewer, it can be argued that Blade Runner 2049 is an excellent piece of cinema for the sort of viewer who appreciates a subtler and more cerebral tale than the usual Hollywood fare, even if it did not find mass market appeal.


Vince McLeod is the author of the cyberpunk novel The Verity Key, a story of ANZAC mateship in a dystopic future world where it’s possible for devices to control people’s thoughts and actions by satellite.