"The Voight-Kampff test"

480Blade Runner is a great science fiction film. It's an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The film is set in a dystopian future Los Angeles, in which replicants are bio-engineered to work on space colonies. A group of replicants escapes back to Earth, seeking to extend their lifespans. A blade runner reluctantly agrees to hunt them down and take them out of circulation. They are believed to be a threat to humanity. The replicants are almost identical replicas of human beings. But how do you detect a replicant? The Voight-Kampff (VK) is a polygraph-like machine used by blade runners to determine whether an individual is a replicant. It measures bodily functions such as respiration, blush response, heart rate and eye movement in response to questions dealing with empathy. The VK test comprises mathematical, linguistic and behavioural multiple-choice questions. The internet is overflowing with VK questions, for example "You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?" The VK test should not be confused with the polygraph (lie detector) test. The polygraph has a range of accuracy that is estimated to be between 80 and 90 percent (more likely lower). The term accuracy is misleading since there's no way of knowing if the examinee is lying or not (in most cases it can't be tested). Generally, there's little evidence that tests can accurately detect lies. In 1986 and 1991, CIA employee and Soviet spy Aldrich Ames passed two polygraph examinations with flying colours. The advanced trick? By being calm and relaxed. Could the VK test be circumvented? Humans pass the test by nature of being human. A functioning sociopath or psychopath (a person with just enough empathy to get along in society) would still show up as human. Replicants are not able to pass the test. But, who knows? Whenever everything else fails, a spirited appearance, small talk and a forced smile could be a good strategy. Just like a regular job interview except that the consequences could be life-changing. 

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