City Tech, Fall 2016

Category: Do Android Dream? (chapters 1-5)

Symbolism of Animals

“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” By Philip K. Dick is a tale of man vs. machine, even so there is a significance to the continuing theme of animals. In the first five chapters, animals are mentioned frequently. The questions arise, what is the symbolism of animals? Why is Rick Deckard fascinated with animals?

From the moment we are introduced to Deckard, his captivation with animals begins in the first chapter during a morning argument with his wife, Iran. Deckard says, “Instead of saving, so we could buy a real sheep, to replace that fake electric one upstairs. A mere electric animal, and me earning all that I’ve worked my way up to through the years.” (p.4). Now with this comment, the hypothesis made reflected of the novel’s title “Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep,” as one can assume Deckard is an unknowing Android living as a human, with human mannerisms. But then we learn it is normal in this world to have domesticated, wild animals. Which furthers Deckard’s wanting of an animal. As he meets with his neighbor, Barbour, then try to negotiate for Barbour’s as the text states “Ever thought of selling your house. Rick asked. He wished to God he had a horse, in fact any animal.” (p.9). At this moment, it can be alleged Deckard simply enjoy the company of animals, however the theme of animals continued to appear.

Moving forward,

Approaching chapter 3, the reader learn androids are emotionally detached. As mentioned, “For Rick Deckard an escaped humanoid robot, which had killed its master, which had been equipped with an intelligence greater than that of many human beings, which had no regard for animals, which possessed no ability to feel empathic joy another life form’s success or grief at its defeat – that, for him, epitomized The Killers.” (p.32). Then it is realized the assumption of Deckard being an android is false, as Deckard show great passion for animals. While the first theory has been shot, another is made. In theory, being in a destroyed world where the elite have left the Earth and found refuge elsewhere, leaving many to fend for themselves. While the Earth is in ruins most animals died, making them endangered. Therefore, people domesticate wild animals to preserve not only the species, but also hope of restoring the world to its old oasis. In all, the symbolism of the animals is to maintain realism in a robotic world.


The Hunt for Androids

Through the first five chapters of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick, we are presented with a post-apocalyptic world, where a world war(W.W.T.) seems to have wiped out most of the human race, and nearly every known animal.  Most of the survivors chose the path of emigration, where individuals would move to another planet and leave the fallout covered Earth.  We are introduced to a Bounty Hunter named Rick Deckard, whose line of work is to “retire” androids that have gone rogue.  As we go along through the chapters, there’s realization that this bounty hunter job is more complicated than it seems.  A device is used in order to help with the process of finding these androids, by helping the hunter distinguish them from humans.  Distinguishing between an android and a human being with the Voigt-Kampff scale is no easy task, though effective, there are limitations.

The Voigt-Kampff scale is used to distinguish an android from a human.  This scale was designed for the sole purpose of discovering androids that have gone rouge, and not make the mistake of killing off a human.  “The Voigt-Kampff Empathy Test, had emerged as criteria by which to judge.  An android, no matter how gifted as to pure intellectual capacity, could make no sense out of the fusion which took place among routinely among the followers of Mercerism”(30).  Mercerism being the religion that the people follow here, have followers that are solely empathetic.  Meaning that they go through this trance where they “connect” to Mercer through the Empathy box mentally and somehow physically.  Since androids are generally considered humans without feelings, it is evident that this device can easily distinguish one from the other.  Unfortunately, there are limitations to this device.

There are possibilities that humans might fail the Voigt-Kampff test due to a mental disorder.  Humans that suffer from schizophrenia are known to have problems controlling their emotions, behavior and thought process.  Hence, it’s possible that humans with this disorder can, possibly, fail the test.  Inspector Bryant mentioned, “The Leningrad psychiatrists think that a small class of humans beings could not pass the Voigt-Kampff scale.  If you tested them in line with police work, you’d assess them as humanoid robots”(38).  So the limitations to the Voigt-Kampff scale is that people that have mental issues are not able to produce the same feelings or responses compared to that of a healthy human.  Therefore, it’s possible to mistaken a human for an android and, worst case scenario, actually kill them.

The advancement of android development is leaving its toll on the reliability of the scale.  The “Nexus-6” as we know is the new type of android that is being distributed by the Rosen orgainization, which seems to have the capabilities to pass the Voigt-Kampff test.  Rachael Rosen was the first subject from the control group to undergo the test, directed by Rick.  Once the test was over, Rick declared that she was an android, but both of the Rosens were able to fool him into thinking that she was a human.  It was only when Rachael mentioned, “‘Your owl, dear,’ ‘Remember?  We’ll tie your home address around its leg and have it fly down San Francisco'”(58), that Deckard was able to realize that there was something off with her.  Normally if a human were to know the gender of an animal, then, in third person, the animal would be referred to as his or her, not its.  With Rachael using “its” when referring to the owl, Rick was able to question her empathetic legitimacy and thus have her take a second test.  Therefore, it is possible that an android as advance as the “Nexus-6” is still unable to emit perfect human qualities.

Overall, the hunt for rogue androids isn’t something to be taken lightly.  Their artificial intelligence is enough to fool anyone at first glance, but with the Voigt-Kampff scale, you can easily trace one to an extent.  What I find interesting though, is how are androids able to kill their masters in the first place?  Is it possible that their masters have pushed them to the limits of their capabilities, which then caused them to rebel?  These are some questions that I’m looking to find answers to in the chapters to come.



The Difference Between the Human and Nonhuman

Androids dreaming of sheep? Does the title sound mysterious to you? You might wonder why the author gives a human characteristic such as dreaming to a humanoid robot. This is mostly what the novel Do androids dream of electric sheep? written by Philip Dick talks about. Emotions play an important role in the novel as they help to distinguish the difference of what is human or nonhuman. The novel is set in a fictional future world, where war has left disastrous effects in Earth’s life. The World War Terminus have mostly annihilate all forms of life: animals and some humans have died from the exposure to the poisonous radiation whereas others have emigrate from Earth to escape of it. Since most animal life have become extinct from the toxicity of the air, the few remaining individuals who inhabits the surface of Earth are obligated to own an animal as it constitutes a symbol of social status and empathy, a trait that only human beings share. In these first chapters, we follow the life of Rick Deckard who is in charge of eliminating androids that came to inhabit the Earth’s surface, but also the life of John Isidore, a man with a low intellectual capacity who likes his job and enjoys another’s person company. By using these two characters in the novel, Dick wants to show how emotions such as empathy and appreciation of life help us identify what is human or nonhuman.

After the World War Terminus destroyed most of animal life, the individuals remaining in the surface of Earth were required to take responsibility for one animal for each family. Taking care of animal clearly represents having affection towards another individual or in this case a living creature. For this people owning an animal was considered a valuable, almost sacred possession and it signifies a symbol of both social status and empathy because of the almost extinction of animal life. Also, owning an animal and taking care of it represents a tool of empathy and a way to show appreciation towards a creature close to the oblivion. This human trait helps individuals distinguish between androids and humans. Here we are introduced to the character of Rick Deckard who after his real sheep died from tetanus, he tricks his neighbors by using an electric sheep. Due to his low financial stability, Rick cannot afford to buy a real animal, however his desire and need for a real animal to achieve the level of status in the society is present as he tries contacting the pet stores and negotiate deals in an attempt to possess a real animal (33-34).

Mercerism also plays a major element in these chapters as it shows how the sentiments of empathy and appreciation of life help the readers identify what is truly human. This technology-based religion is utilized to bring a sense of togetherness to the individuals who follow them. Followers of this religion use a mysterious device called the “empathy box” and when they grip the twin handles of this empathy box, individuals enter another world where everyone shares the same pain and sufferings of their main leader Wilbur Mercer. One of the characters who establish this connection within Mercer’s mind is a man named John Isidore. As stated in the novel, Isidore “crossed over in the usual perplexing fashion; physical merging—accompanied by mental and spiritual identification—with Wilbur Mercer had reoccurred. As it did for everyone who at this moment clutched the handles, either here on Earth or on one of the colony planets.”(22) Everyone participates in this collective ritual and experiences Mercer’s pain after being hit with a rock, leaving his arm bleeding. Even though this ritual cause Isidore and other individuals a terrible pain, especially elderly ones who “had died, particularly later on at the top of the hill when the torment began in earnest”(25), by being part of this ritual, the individuals share empathy between each other as they understand and feel the pain or joy the other person is going through.

A droid is made by humans and haunted by humans

Phillips novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electrical Sheep” is an amazing piece of work. It’s amusement comes from the fact that most of the content in this novel are un-realistic. When I read chapter one I realized that it’s talking about future. A fictional future that might exist one day. Especially the fact that people live in Mars those days. When I got to chapter 2 I already know that humans are haunting devices developed so well that it can almost think and predict actions on its own. Which is ironic because humans ended haunting Droids that they created to serve them. Not only that it’s about humans and Droids. It’s also about the inner part of the human soul has been tampered with. A quote from Iran’s character ” I was in a 382 mood” clearly indicates that the brain of a human is being controlled. How exactly can some one decide what they feel and how their emotion toward something is being controlled. Although in chapter one it Tells us that there is devices that are placed to do such a thing except that the novel have not yet told us what goes wrong if all humans brain are controlled by a machine ? Maybe the outcome of the war and the destruction of earth is the answer but not yet told exactly. In chapter 2 and 3 no details were told about the world instead it went deep to a human made sheep that is considered a humanity symbol. And later a murder happened, who did it is actually a droid. An advanced model of droids that are capable of becoming humans. Looking like a human deeply. In conclusion, I believe there is more to know about and till here I think we are going to Mars soon in coming chapters.

What’s The Difference?

Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep introduces us to some emotionless things. The line between living creatures and androids is blurred. Why blur the line? It can be inferred from the first few chapters that nothing is genuine, not even people, especially the people.

Iran awakes in a separate bed, hollow and distant.  She is aware something is not right. She is objectively aware, her mind is receiving information, but no response is being elicited from her. Dick writes “At that moment,’ Iran said, ‘when I had the TV sound off, I was in a 382 mood; I had just dialed it. So although I heard the emptiness intellectually, I didn’t feel it. “ (5) If Rachel had faltered for a millisecond in responding to an emotional eliciting question, what kind of condemnation is this for Iran?  Either the determinants for humanity are faulty, or the range for humanity’s emotion or lack thereof is boundless.

If empathy is indeed a determinant for humanity, there are seemingly few humans left. In John’s apartment, a TV belies humanity’s facetious empathetic nature. “The TV shouted, ‘- duplicates the halcyon days of the pre-Civil War Southern states!” (17) An announcer uses some perverse nostalgia of slavery to sell androids. There is no empathy for the slaves, history and the pain that time period had caused. Human life is just stock. Empathy is only ever shown towards animals and babies. Its bunk, a practiced premeditated emotion needed for survival.

Deckard second guesses Rachel, he’s a classic gumshoe. The final question reveals that Rachel is indeed a Nexus-6 Android. “The reaction had come, but too late. He knew the reaction period down to a fraction of a second, the correct reaction period; there should have been none.” (59) Rachel is ousted as an android, despite her being unaware. As a reader however, the test is negligible. Rachel has a striking personality, she wears perfume and recoils to touch. She is shocked, frightened perhaps, to find out she is an android. Iran on the other hand doesn’t respond to her vacuous mental state. It is either high praise for the android or condemnation for humanity. Perhaps Rachel is what we humanity should be, the idealized self in Dick’s post fallout world.

There is a paradox I’ve was reminded of recently, “The Ship of Theseus.” If a boat has every single one of its parts replaced and retains its image, is it still the same boat? If we create something precisely in our image, down to our essence, is it human? Dick’s novel shows that creating a definitive definition of humanity may cause for some of us to be excluded.

Do Androids Dream Of Electrical Sheep?:Animals

“You know how people are about not taking care of an animal; they consider it immoral and anti-empathic” (13). In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? If you do not consider it immoral and anti-empathic you are not humane. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2021. After being devastated by World War Terminus and incurring mass fatalities, most of the human population has migrated to another planet. Animals are either extinct or nearly extinct. On earth, in the post-apocalyptic world of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, humans value genuine animals no matter the price and if not you are just simply not human.

Animal species are hard to come by and they are expensive. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the owl is recognized as the first extinct animal. More animals follow and other animals are nearly extinct. One of the main characters, Rick, has lost his only animal, a sheep, after the sheep being contaminated. While tending to his electrical replacement sheep he discovers his neighbor’s horse will breed soon. In the dialogue transpired by Rick and his neighbor you can see his longing for a fine genuine animal. Horses like many other animals are hard to come by and are very expensive. Rick shows a longing for a horse when he states, “I want to have an animal I keep trying to buy one. But on my salary, on what city employee makes –” (13).Rick illustrates that animals are valued because although they are hard to come by and expensive Rick is continuously seeking an animal in which he can barely afford.

Compassion for animals in society distinguishes humans from non-humans. Rick’s job is to catch human androids. His department facilitated a test, Voigt-Kampff test, to determine whether he is testing a human or an android. Rick administers the test on a subject who he conceives to be an android. The subject almost outsmarts Rick into back tracking his conclusion however he doesn’t falter. The questions used tested the compassion and empathy that the test taker had for animals. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? society value animals and if the test taker does not value animals then the test taker may be an android.

Placing high value on having and taking care of an animal in society seems honorable and benevolent but what are the stakes? There already seems to be a hint of dissatisfaction in the lives of the characters and possibly a faulty system in place when distinguishing between human and androids.

Mercerism; the Post-Apocalyptic Version of Christianity…

Off the bat, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is teeming with biblical references and allusions to Judeo-Christian theology. Going from Old Testament to New Testament, there are so many references to biblical events and representations just in the first 6 chapters of the novel. It already establishes a religion of “Mercerism” that was started by a man named Wilbur Mercer (who acts like a prophet) and alludes to the rapture of Revelations and Noah’s ark.

Living in a post-apocalyptic America, the people who remain on Earth and were not able to go to Mars are akin to people who did not ascend into heaven during the rapture as described in the Book of Revelations. John Isidore, a “special” human who is physically and mentally below average, is barred from going to Mars because he does not meet the requirements to “emigrate”:

“To himself John Isidore though acidly, And it’s gone away for me, too, without my having to emigrate. He had been a special now for over a year, and not merely in regard to the distorted genes which he carried. Worse still, he had failed to pass the minimum mental faculties test, which made him in popular parlance a chickenhead.” (19)

Though not directly referring to the rapture, John is like a man who was left behind on a doomed Earth that is now inhabited by “the void” (an emptiness of humanity). Because of his short-comings, he was not judged appropriately to go into the “after-life”, in this case Mars, which is a wonderful utopia that everyone strives to reach.

And despite being damned to an Earth that is left behind by the rapture, the people who remain on Earth (so far from accounts of Rick and John), embrace the theological practices of one Wilbur Mercer. John uses an “empathy box” in order to connect with the prophet, as described here:

“The visual image congealed; he saw at once a famous landscape, the old, brown, barren ascent, with tufts of dried-out bonelike weeds poking slantedly into a dim an sunless sky. One single figure, more or less human in form, toiled its way up the hillside: an elderly man wearing a dull, featurelss robe, covering as meager as if it had been snatched from the hostile emptiness of the sky. The man, Wilbur Mercer, plodded ahead, and, as he clutched the handles, John Isodore gradually experienced a waning of the living room in which he stood; the dilapidated furniture and walls ebbed out and he ceased to experience them at all. He found himself, instead, as always before, entering into the landscape of drab hill, drab sky. And at the same time he no longer witnessed the climb of the elderly man. His own feet now scraped, sought purchase, among the familiar loose stones; he felt the same old painful, irregular roughness beneath his feet and once again smelled the acrid haze of the sky–not Earth’s sky but that of some place alien, distant, and yet, by means of empathy box, instantly available.

He had crossed over in the usual perplexing fashion; physical merging–accompanied by mental and spiritual identification–with Wilbure Mercer had reoccurred. As it did for everyone who at this moment clutched the handles, either here on Earth or on one of the colony planets.” (21- 22)

It depicts something similar to virtual reality, as John escapes from his own reality and is in another location entirely. But beyond the literal depiction, John is “praying” or showing some sort of worship to Mercer through the empathy box. He “merges” with the religious figure not only physically, but mentally and spiritually, which is the goal that people have when praying to God/Jesus; people say they connect with God when they pray to him and feel close/a oneness with God Not only that, but Mercer is described like typical depictions of Moses (old, wearing robes), which goes further to the point that Mercer is the central religious figure of the post-apocalyptic Earth and everyone follows his teachings, as did Moses who led his people and gained the Ten Commandments.

Lastly, encompassing more on Mercer linked to religious figures, the idea of Mercerism is similar to the thought process behind Noah and his ark in the Old Testament:

“’But,’ Rick interrupted, ‘for you to have two horses and me none, that violates the whole basic theological and moral structure of Mercerism.’

‘You have your sheep; hell, you can follow the Ascent in your individual life, and when you grasp the two handles of empathy, you approach honorably. Now if you didn’t have that old sheep, there, I’d see some logic in your position. Sure, if I had two animals and you didn’t have any, I’d be helping deprive you of true fusion with Mercer.’” (11)

With the promise of Ascent, Rick and other residents of Earth gather as many animals as they can and tend to them to preserve their existence. Preservation of animals is what Noah did with his ark by gathering two of every animal in order to preserve their species and rebuild society, much like the goal of these post-apocalyptic survivors trying to rebuild society through maintenance of their livestock. Barbour also mentions “grasping the two handles of empathy” just like what John does in order to connect with Mercer; so everyone is using these empathy boxes to connect with Mercer and follow his practices.

And so on; there are many more things to look into which relate back to Christianity. Like with Rick having a sheep (“And the Lord is my Shepard”) and the implications that has with it being a fake sheep; or how the defective androids are like “fallen angels” that became corrupt and came back to Earth and hide among humanity like demons. Again, this book from the very beginning is throwing so many religious references, you just need to look hard enough to find them.

A world like ours

The world of blade runner is one of possible outcome in relation to our own time. There was not much in the way of implausible technology or the way human behavior would following the events described. The world once again managed to get into a world war that now left only losers on all sides and the world was poisoned. Most people have moved to space to escape the dust that slowly affects those that remain to the point that are not seen as human if they get changed by it. The other major change was the advent of androids for all the people who left earth to live in space, it was an incentive to get more people into space. It is not clear how many people are left, however it would appear that whatever the population of humans in space is so too is the number of androids. This androids also appear to have become very human, to the point that the only way to tell if they are not is to test for involuntary reactions that only normal humans can give.

At the same time because this is all possible and the story creates people who are believable it does not feel different from the real world. Other than the space colonies and the advance androids it all feels bland, ground to earth. I feel like reading on more vs writing this blog about just the first 5 chapters of this story. Almost nothing happened, even the twist with Rachael Rosen who seem completely human up until the point Rick Deckard exposed her for being an android. It did not feel ground breaking, at least not to me. I feel as if this is another example of ideas that shocked people before no longer bother people, at least in my case. This feels like another story that I have read over time, well written but failing to capture me other than with some ideas that by this point I saw somewhere else as well. I was not bother by the idea of androids being identical to humans, or the fact that humans killed earth, or that they now live in space. It is possible that latter on it will get better but for now this start is the same as another story. I may be dismissing this too quickly as just another story but nothing else comes to mind when thinking of what to write. I could summarize the whole thing but even then it would be a few lines with nothing major taken place.

The only thing that really stood out was the fact that people wanted to have animals and legally had to give one if they had two to a person that had none (11-14). This is odd considering how much they cost which often ends up in the upper thousands range and can only be got in a few places and mainly from a catalog. Now this could have been implanted to remind people what was lost, or help keep animals alive with the few left alive. Or it could serve both purposes at the same time. There is a focus on empathy in what remains of humanity and it is also the base test in how to find androids among humans. There is also the distinct lack of people present on earth and book does a good job of emphasizing that is quite, dead, and crumbling with humanity’s mistake (5, 15, 20, and 21).

Nature, Technology or something new.

Hey all this week we have read the first five chapters of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” Through out the story we slowly see what this futuristic earth has become and how humanity has adapted to it. The story does not tell you everything at once so in the beginning we get small bits of information on a war, mutation, the extinction of almost all species on earth and rouge androids that must be put down. The main character Rick is a bounty hunter who’s job is to hunt down and kill lose androids that no longer follow order’s. Through Rick’s experiences we see many conflicting traits showing how technology and nature have become analogous.

Are android’s equal to humans? That’s the question I found myself asking while i read the first page.  We start at a scene where Rick starts his morning arguing with his wife Iran. On page 4 they tell each other

“You’re a murderer hired by the cops.

“I’ve never killed a human being in my life”…

Iran said “just those poor andys.”

This conversation here shows us two separate opinions on androids and how they should be treated. Iran clearly shows concern for them thinking of them as though they are alive. We see a sympathetic side of her when she calls them “poor andys”. While Rick on the other hand does not declare them human and uses that to justify his job. Rick’s choice of words degrades androids by making them something less important than a human life.

Their are also similarities between nature and technology through the use of animal’s. In this future taking care of an animal is a norm, but because most of the animals on earth were wiped out most people get robotic androids even though its looked down upon. Rick has an electric sheep which he feels bad about but cant afford to get a real sheep. He describes it on pg12 as he talks to Barbour about it

“Its a premium job. And I’ve put as much time and attention into caring for it as i did when it was real. But- ‘ He shrugged.

“Its not the same,” Barbour finished.

“But almost as you feel the same doing it; you have to keep your eye on it exactly as you did when it was really alive. Because they break down and everyone in the building knows…”

While Rick holds some apathy to androids he clearly uses them to cope with his desire to own an animal. Rick explains that in order to maintain he has to put in the same amount of effort for a real sheep. The difference is that now Rick must do it in order not to look bad in front of his neighbors. We see how shameful this is on pg 13 when Barbour says ” You know how people are  about not taking care of an animal; they consider it immoral and anti empathetic…” Rick only holds on to his robotic sheep only so that the community will not think bad again. The strange thing is that while everyone tries to own a real animal Rick cant and must pretend to do so with a false animal.

Rick also shows traits of becoming less human like by incorporating technology into his body. We are introduced to whats called a mood organ in the story. My understanding of what the mood organ is that it is a device that connects to a human, it is then capable of taking in direct codes in order to alter the mood of a human being to whatever they please. This artificial control of the emotions we see here show’s the user directly controlling what they want to feel through machines and code. The first example of how the mood organ works is shown on pg4 “At his console he hesitated between dialing a thalmic suppressant… or thalmic stimulant.” Here we see how Rick no longer feels emotions, or makes decisions like normal human, his actions and emotions are all dictated by technology he wields. In a way his human reactions have now become more mechanical and controlled similar to a robot in today’s standard’s. Rick’s line of work demands for him to become colder.

Lastly Ricks job demands him to constantly interact with androids and in effect we see how androids are beginning to blend into human civilization. On pg 29 we read the line

“We had better just accept the new unit as a fact of life,” he said “It”s always been this way, with every improved brain unit that’s come along.”

Here we see an evolution of androids when we learn about the new “Nexus 6” capable of seeming almost human. Rick states that the differece between human and android is empathy. Humans are social creatures and nothing like predators, so they have evolutionary benefits from being empathetic. On pg 31 Rick states

“A herd of animal such as man would acquire a higher survival factor through this; an owl or a cobra would be destroyed. Evidently the humanoid robot constituted a solitary predator.”

Rick’s job demands him to kill Androids that become more advanced and similar to humans with each upgrade. I question Ricks roll here when we look at the quote since he himself is a predator of androids trying to make money by hunting them.  Since Rick is a predator should we question whether he can lose the defining trait that separates humans and androids which is empathy.

Well that’s all folks!