The screen is the material and imaginative interface where biology meets technology. It is the nexus between science and fiction, where technological and ethical concerns surrounding synthespians, representations of replicants, and manifestations of synthetic biology come into play. This analysis of digital imaging and cinematic imagining of virtual actors and synthetic humans in films such as Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017) examines the ethical implications of digital embodiment technologies and cybernetics. I argue that it is necessary to bring together science and the arts to advance understandings of embodiment and technology. In doing so, I explore commonalities between ethical concerns about technobiological bodies in cultural and scientific discourse and developments such as the creation of virtual humans and “deepfake” digital doubles in screen media.
Embodiment Technologies in Science/Fiction
For those of us accustomed to thinking of French cinema as a low-budget, philosophical alternative to Hollywood, the past few years might have been a bit disorienting. Established auteurs (Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Agnès Varda) and challenging newcomers (Gaspard Noé, Catherine Breillat, Erick Zonca) continue to impress, but their idiosyncratic views are now complemented by an increasing number of what look a lot like, well, French “blockbusters.” These are popular genre films that feature special effects and glossy production values.