Rick Deckard’s transformation from an optimistic and ambitious bounty hunter to a disillusioned loner by the end of the story shows how morally ambiguous his work was in the first place. Deckard’s assignments to “retire” rogue androids on Earth is dangerously close to murder, which creates the central conflict within Deckard’s character. As a follower of Mercerism, Deckard believes all life is precious and is commanded to kill only “the killers.” Because the rogue androids are not considered “living,” Deckard can justify his retiring of the inorganic beings. The problem for Deckard and other bounty hunters like him is that the androids have become so advanced, it has become difficult to differentiate between them and organic humans. To solve this problem, Deckard puts his faith in the technology of the Voigt-Kampff empathy test, which purports to measure empathy and thereby identify humanoid androids as inorganic beings. Deckard's reliance on the Voigt-Kampff empathy test is absolute. It must be, otherwise he must admit that he could be killing humans in the course of his work. Whether the test is accurate or not hardly matters because for Deckard, the test is a crutch he uses to justify the violent nature of his work. 

Deckard’s inner conflict escalates and he feels guilt and regret as he retires more and more androids. Taking the empathy test himself, Deckard discovers that he feels empathy toward the androids he retires. This shatters Deckard’s confidence and throws him into more and more uncertainty. It leaves him searching for meaning and he responds to these new feelings by buying a real live goat from the market to replace his electric one. But this action is not enough to soothe his inner turmoil and Deckard continues down a path of further disillusionment. Deckard’s newfound empathy also leaves him vulnerable to Rachael Rosen’s advances. Despite this, Deckard finds a renewed commitment to his work after Mercer urges him on. His continued retiring of androids is extremely uncomfortable for him, and at several points he swears off bounty hunting. In the end, a roundly disillusioned Deckard nevertheless remains committed to his work, but with a new, more nuanced understanding of artificial life.