Psychology and behaviorism in *Blade Runner 2049*
From my email, by Jason N. Doctor:
You provide a good perspective on Blade Runner 2049. In addition to the biblical references and themes, I was also impressed by the psychology and philosophy of mind references:
1) After every event where he eliminates a replicant, “K” must take a cognitive interference test similar to those used most recently by Sendhil Mullianathan and Eldar Shafir to study the effects of economic scarcity on cognition–but to test if killing a replicant heightens his emotions by perhaps putting him in a moral quandary.
2) On the door to his apartment, some graffiti reads “F*** off Skinner”. This seems odd in its prominence. B.F. Skinner developed, to an extreme, John Watson’s radical suggestion that behavior does not have mental states. Skinner’s ideas shutout discussions of whether or not machines could support mental states. Of course, rational economics by similar methodologic scruple ignores mental states.
3) The movie promotes the idea that there is no computation without representation. Ana de Armis’ character formulates mental symbols in her relationship with K and behaves in accordance with interdefined internal states (we can’t predict some of her actions directly from stimuli). We are led to believe that she qualitatively experiences real love (though we cannot know) . In irony, one of these mental symbols involves a longing to be a “real girl” by means that are unrelated to the mind-body problem. She wants to being taken off the network, so that she can be in one place, just as are neurophysiologic organisms.
>All in all, the movie legitimizes the notion of (hardware agnostic) mental representations and takes a fairly hard stance in opposition to behaviorist constraints on psychological explanations. So it is a critique of behavioral psychology and indirectly rational economics.