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.