Thursday, November 05, 2009
Read: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Rick Dekard makes his living hunting down these rogue androids. But how do you know an android from a human? Empathy.
"Empathy, evidently, existed only within the human community, whereas intelligence to some degree could be found throughout every phylum and order including the arachnida."
The book explores what it means to be human. I found it quite fascinating that ownership of animals was one way the humans emphasized empathy. But as animals are also a symbol of social status, they are very expensive. Dekard himself owns an electric sheep, that is, until he can afford a real animal. To distinguish androids from humans, bounty hunters pose them questions involving animals while measuring involuntary eye movement and blushing. But the sophisticated androids often prove this incredibly difficult. The situation of 'chickenhead' Isidore further confounds this issue. He's human but has had brain damage, and as a result wouldn't necessarily have the typical human responses to these questions.
Like plenty of science fiction, the book can initially be a bit difficult to get into. But sometimes that's the fun of reading science fiction - figuring out the pieces of the puzzle that you're thrown into, often head first. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was my first Philip K. Dick book and it was quite an interesting read. I look forward to reading more of his works. Blade Runner is loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I'm going to have to move that up my Netflix queue now.
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