Big Dumb Objects Declassified

Abstract:

I have always been interested in the impossibly large and unknown in science fiction and up until recently I haven’t been able to explain why such things appeal to me. The result of my findings has led me to the concept of the BDO and macroconstruct themes in science fiction. BDOs or “Big Dumb Objects” embody the alien, immense, enigmatic constructs we are all familiar with in Science Fiction. Constructs such as Arthur C. Clarks’ Rama to the Halo Array of the Halo franchise, give consumers a feeling of awe that continues to perpetuate through the years. The question is why? What makes these objects of immense size and unknown origin appeal to the masses? Are there deeper layers of the human condition being commented on by the use of these BDOs in literature? These are some of the questions I attempt to answer in my report on the Big Dumb Objects of science fiction.

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Butterflys, Interesting Societies, and Unwanted Gifts

The conclusion of the book is a little anti-climactic in my perspective. The lack of definitive resolution to Connie’s situation, and her uncertain effect on shaping the present and future is both frustrating and intriguing at the same time. Frustrating in that there isn’t concrete evidence to support that Connie’s actions had any bearing on the future. Intriguing in that the ambiguity allows the reader to image many different possible scenarios. I am aware that the end of chapter (Piercy, 376), Connie ends up back in Rockover. However that isn’t all there is to say on the subject.

That chapter 20 gives the perspective of various specialists, does not denote it as the ultimate truth. Rather, simply gives the reader the opposing viewpoint of this novel; how the doctors and specialists view Connie. When she is diagnosed as schizophrenic (374), that might just be the label they give Connie’s ability to time travel. It is my belief that this novel presents both Connie’s perspective and the perspective of the ‘specialist’ or the ‘status-quo’ to allow the reader to decide for themselves which to subscribe.

Thinking on perspective, I’m reminded of a famous story by the ancient Taoist Zhuangzi.

“Once upon a time, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting about happily enjoying himself. He did not know that he was Zhou. Suddenly he awoke, and was palpably Zhou. He did not know whether he was Zhou, who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhou. Now, there must be a difference between Zhou and the butterfly. This is called the transformation of things.”

Disregarding the ideas of transformation (a lot to say on that by itself), the idea that reality is in one’s perception is key here. In regards to Connie, she was not insane, but a psychic time traveler. Which is proven somewhat in that Connie is able to learn skills she had no prior knowledge of, such as breath control(221) and foraging for food in the forest(235). To the doctors, Connie was a schizophrenic with a history of drug abuse and violence. I enjoyed how it isn’t really possible to say which is truth.

In regards to whether or not Mattapoisett actually exists, I believe it is important, depending on what aspect of the narrative you are focusing on. If you are a reader who focuses on Connie’s journey through her ordeal, then “Mattapoisett” could have taken the form of anything really. From aliens civilizations to robotic enclaves, Connie could have some how been involved with any kind of plot device so long as it fulfilled the role of “Mattapoisett”. However for me I enjoyed most when Connie was in Mattapoisett 2137, since I am fascinated with the society and way of life of that future. So for me it was very important that Mattapoisett exist, which is why I’ve tried to find empirical evidence that it does in the text. This is also the reason why the author’s presentation of the future was not boring for me, as it was for many others in the class. I actually wanted to know more details.

My main gripe of the narrative is that it is not explained why Connie lost her “ability” to travel into the future. The narrative only hints that it may be due to the implant in her brain (320). If we consider her “ability” as actually being a sickness, then her loss of that “ability” would be considered a good thing. It can’t be known however, who considers such a loss a “good thing”. More food for thought.

I have to say I enjoyed the book. The ride was enjoyable but the destination was akin to ‘that feeling you get when someone gives you a gift you really don’t want’. I was secretly hoping Connie might stay in the future, but knew that since this was a book with a “message” or “agenda”, so to speak, that such an outcome was pretty much non-existent.


 

Zhuang, Zhou, and Burton Watson. Chuang-tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia university press, 1964. Print.

Chuang-tzu“. In Nienhauser, William, ed. The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, Volume 2. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 20–26.

From Small(ish) to Big(understatement), a look at megastructures in science fiction

I’d like to discuss the idea of Megastructures within science fiction. I’d like to research their origins within the genre, their influence on today’s society, and the concepts and ideas of futurists that challenge what is conceivably possible. I’d start with the ideas of mega cities, seemingly contemporary in construction, but covering exponentially larger areas. Next would com the idea of Arcology or “architectural ecology”, which are essentially self-sustaining (ideally zero-waste) megastructures that house large populations. Then comes a shift into outer space, talking about space elevators and habitats. Lastly I’d like to cover artificial planets, Ringworlds, and Dyson Swarm. Mixed in with the research, I intend to give my own analysis on these ideas, and possible reasons as to why such ideas have come about in the first place.

Oh well, why not include some content on multiple universe theories, fractals, alternate dimensions, and chaos theory. I’m joking of course, but it would be interesting to draw parallels between all these concepts.

I wouldn’t be covering large numbers of works for this project, just key texts that illustrate each milestone. For example, I might use metropolis to talk about mega cities and use resources on real cities to make connections between science fiction and reality. How the former influences the latter. If possible I’d like to draw from different mediums of science fiction besides printed text such as, games and movies I’ve played or seen.

I seems to me that reality or our knowledge and perception of it, can’t keep up with our imaginations.“Now that we know that this is possible, what comes after?” “What else is possible, based on what we know?” We keep asking those kinds of questions until we reach a point where concepts of what is possible become too intangible for us to socially and/or scientifically conceive. Then we just have to wait for reality to catch up. This line of thinking is what I’d like to demonstrate by megastructures evolving from mega cities to interstellar(or galactic) constructs in science fiction.

In terms of the deliverable, I’m not sure exactly how it might look. I’m leaning towards a paper, but I’d like to include images and diagrams to better convey the concepts. I would still need to think on this aspect. What I can do right now, is collect the resources I would like to use in this project.

Thought provoking look into contemporary ‘Inequality’, a depiction of the ideal future, or both?

I approached this novel with a high level of apprehension. The reason was two fold. First, the back of the book describes “… Connie’s struggle to keep the institution’s doctors from forcing a brain control operation … “, basically a lobotomy(ish) type operation. Wonderful. This brought back memories of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) which left me feeling drained after having watched it. Second, the very short science fiction introduction guide has a section referencing this book under state control (Oxford, 88), right next to a reference of Clockwork Orange. Took me awhile to actually give this book a chance, but I’m happily surprised I finally did.

It starts out a little too contemporary for me; as if I were reading a non-fiction or a biography. Woman’s niece runs from her abusive partner to her apartment, and ends up in a ‘mad house’; for a second time we learn later. I had some confusion earlier in the reading, as the author would expose names of characters, only reveal their significance later.

The plot begins to get interesting when the events prior to the first chapter are elaborated on, and Luciente is fully introduced. It is reveled that Connie, the main protagonist, is an “extraordinarily top catcher” (Piercy, 34); a person “whose mind and nervous system are open, receptive to an unusual extent…”. This allows Connie to contact Luciente who is an unusually strong “sender”, someone who is able to send messages from the future; year 2137 to be exact. The next chapters deal with Connie re-adjusting to life in a mental institution as well as her sojourn through 2137 Mattapoisett through Luciente. It was interesting to see how fixated Connie was on determining Luciente’s gender. It makes you – the reader – question if it really matters that Luciente is a woman. This is very telling of how ingrained the notion of gender is in Connie’s mind and how it affects her decisions.

The most blaring themes present in these first chapters are that of gender inequality and social hierarchies. Connie’s emotional instability and current lot in life can be attributed to her harsh upbringing (Piercy, 39). However her upbringing is tied to the circumstances of the society around her, with all its malign aspects. Her mother not giving her enough attention and love as a child, her failed marriages, the loss of Claude, and the abuse of her daughter as a consequence of her grief, can all be traced back to her upbringing; by extension the problems of gender inequality and social hierarchies inherent in society. This brings up the question of whether Connie has agency or control of the course of her life, or if that course is predetermined by and in her beginnings.

The mental institutions Connie is committed to, seem to mirror society as a whole in a number of ways. What struck me as significant was that Connie would describe her time in the asylum as “just surviving”(Piercy, 16). It seems like a microcosm of society as a whole: there is have an authority that sets rules and regulations, social norms one must adhere to, as well as all the ugly aspects of society such as social profiling and gender stereotyping.

I wonder why the future date is chosen as 2137 and not 2203 or even 3493. I suppose the significance is that it is distant enough into the future to believably infer what society might be like, based on what we know of today. Did the author just randomly come up with that number then? 2137 not 2200 which seems a lot more distant, but not 2100 which seems to close? I digress. The world presented in 2137 is largely different from what Connie, and I suspect, the reader would imagine it to be, yet strangely nostalgic and familiar.

The 2137 society is mainly rural, self sustaining, environmentally friendly, egalitarian with a great solidarity and cohesion within the villages. Humans have deemed large urban centers unsustainable. Energy is harnessed from wind and sun. Humans have even learned to communicate and understand animals, leading to a complete dietary change and integration with the natural world. Technology is still prevalent, evidenced by the ‘kenners’ and the databases they are connected too, but it is used judiciously and only for utility.

The most interesting aspect of this society is the dissolution of the institution of gender as we know it in today’s world. There are no stereo types, no roles defined by society, just people. Gender has become just a physiological distinction, as evidenced by the disuse of the pronouns he/she/it for person or animal, and how they treat each other. Male and Female associations have become neutral, and both sexes play equal parts in this society from farming, to the military; we’ve yet to see, who the ‘defense force’ actually defends against. The final form of equality of the sexes mentioned at the end of chapter five was the use of human incubation and birthing machines. This gave both men and women the ability to become ‘mothers’.

These first few chapters present an interesting scenario to discuss gender and societal problems, while presenting us with a believable future to contrast against. I can only hope the novel concludes on a satisfying note.


 

Nicholson, Jack, Louise Fletcher, Miloš Forman, Jack Nitzsche, Michael Douglas, Saul Zaentz, and Ken Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Burbank, Calif: Warner Home Video, 1997, ©1975.

Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time. New York: Knopf, 1976. Print.

Seed, David. Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.

Class Notes for 3/5/2015

Started off with a free writing about five different covers of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

Examined different versions of the novel’s covers:

Our current novel impressions:

  • Hunter – hunted with the infrared background on the sheep
  • Slavery
  • Reptilian  – perhaps chameleon to reference how androids blend in with the human populations

Bulgarian cover (?) (the one with the female humanoid android and the male human)

  • Surreal impression of Rachel and Deckard. Carnal relationship between Rachel and Deckard.
  • Desolate background
  • Electronic sheep (ersatz sheep) representation of man and machine.
  • Background ships could represent cops coming to stop the Carnal act
  • Does it actually matter if there are
  • Blanket represents a skin?
  • Blanket represents a division between android and human

German cover (?) (the one with the moon and the spaceship crashing on it)

  • Branding the book according to conventional stereotypes of science fiction
  • Might symbolize the androids escaping from mars
  • Used to highlight or obscure different themes of the book

Next we did group work, involving six questions about the film Bladerunner:

  1. Consider the differences between the novel and the film
  2. Consider the scene in J.F. Sebastian’s apartment, where the replicants encounter other automatons.
  3. Consider the scene in which Roy encounters his various creators.
  4. What’s up with the “unicorn” dream & origami figure at the end of it?
  5. Consider the theme of “eyes” in the movie.
  6. Consider the theme of memories in the movie.

We listed things absent in the movie that were originally in the novel*:

  • Mercerism
  • Iran
  • Empathy Box
  • Sheep
  • Isiodore
  • Post-Apocalyptic Fallout
  • Buster Friendly
  • The city is way more populated than in the book
  • No plot twists from the novel is present in film
    • No fake police department
  • No kipple

Things added to the film that was not present in the novel*:

  • Gaff – guy with the cane
  • Deckard’s lack of emotion
  • J.F. Sebastian
  • multi national metropolis
  • Film takes place in LA instead of San Francisco
  • Way too populated in the film
  • Sentimental love affair between Rachel and Deckard
  • Photographs as a physical representation of memories
  • Deckard’s Unicorn Dream

Drew attention to the concept of unnatural reproduction – presented by the android’s fixation on mother and father figures.

  • Leon and his ‘mother’ – Leon’s line just before he shoots Dave Holden
  • Roy and his ‘father’ – When Roy meets Tyrell
  • Rachel and her ‘mother’ – when she shows Deckard a picture of what she thinks is her mother

Took note of the scene when Priss first enters J.R. Sebastian’s apartment.

  • J.R. makes his own friends in the form of smaller automatons

Took note of the scene when Roy first sees Priss in J.R. Sebastian’s apartment.

  • J.R. Sebastian works for Tyrell as a genetic scientist
  • J.R. makes toys, to keep himself company
  • J.R. has a disease that accelerates his age
  • Strange how an automatons(androids) are playing with toys(automations)
  • Priss can be considered as a reference to a cyborg (part organic and part machine), and also a reference to blurring the lines between what is and is not ‘human’.

We discussed the idea of “what exactly is a cyborg?”

Question of the “other”. What does it mean to consider something as “other” than us?

Reliance on the Voight Kampff test or the image enhancements machine Deckard uses to detect Zora. Its interesting how humans need technology to detect technology. Many of the characters such as Tyrell and Chu have a deteriorated eyesight but are considered high in intelligence.

Discussed the importance of the scene where Priss is discovered by Deckard.

  • It is important in that it instills a form of fear in the viewer that Priss cannot be detected among the automations. If not instilling the fear, at least recognizing it.

*take note of minute 43 in the film about prosthesis*


 

Words to take note of:

  • Cyborg – half organic half machine entity
  • Posthumanism – after or beyond humanism
  • Hybrid – entity with mixed traits or elements
  • Religious 
  • Eyes
  • Prosthesis – artificial body part, used in the case of extreme injury of the original body part
  • Detective
  • Film Noir – films that encompass a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity (Wiki)
  • Cyberpunk – a genre of science fiction set in a lawless subculture of an oppressive society dominated by computer technology. (Wiki)
  • Chiaroscuro – art term to mean a use of strong contrast between light and dark. (Wiki)

Relating MoMa’s Visit to Science Fiction text:

Words that come to mind when thinking about the exhibit:

  • Infrastructure
  • Social responsibility
  • Clean energy
  • Poverty
  • Affordable housing
  • Recycling
  • Innovation
  • Mega Cities (population is at least 8 million people)
  • Tactical Urbanism
    • planning for urban environments
  • Uneven growth 
    • Wide wealth gap
  • Development
  • Survival
  • Economy
  • Social responsibility

The ‘solutions’ presented in the exhibit do not exist in the realm of reality. They are a culmination of architectural and scientific expert’s work on ideal solutions to present and future problems.

When we think of Ideals we can think of it in terms of what is vs. what ought to be. Science Fiction can be used to hypothesize possible scenarios that we can use to examine our world today.


 

Homework reminder:

“there will come soft Rain” (3 texts) – found in the schedule

SF Short intro (intro + chp 3) – 3rd book that you were supposed to have bought

Response post to class discussion MoMa + Metrololis

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Graphic Novel)

Hey Everyone,

I just wanted to share this graphic novel collection I found of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Almost everything is copied right from the novel; dialogue is spot on for each scene. The main difference here is that there is no text that describes scenes and locations, obviously, since the graphics do that for you. Its another interesting take on how to view the world and its characters, especially the characters. If you had a specific visualization for the characters in your head, be prepared to have those images changed yet again.

The Graphic Novel is separated into twenty four chapters, over six volumes. If you’re interested in getting this work you can buy it from Boom! the publisher, Amazon, or better yet Comixology. Of course I got this from a completely reliable and legitimate source *wink*.

Below are some preview screen captures to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

DADoES pc1 DADoES pc2 DADoES pc3 DADoES pc4 DADoES pc5 DADoES pc6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pleasantly Surprised

I have mixed feelings about my trip to the MoMa. Firstly, that place is packed on weekends. I had gone around 3pm last Saturday, and I felt a little ill from the experience. Of course it didn’t help that I had already come down with some kind of sickness beforehand. I guess it’s natural that it be packed, it is a tourist attraction after all. Another thing that I would like to note is that the place is a lot smaller than I had initially imagined. I’m used to museums being the size of the Smithsonian or the Natural History Museum. That isn’t a demerit, it’s just something I noticed especially because of how packed with people it was. If you haven’t noticed already I’m not a fan of places packed with people.

Yes. Well, moving on.

When I finally reached the exhibit on the 3rd floor it was an unexpected treat. I had gone into this exhibit thinking I would be thrust into the future by fifty to a hundred years; huge vistas of futuristic urban arcologies and endless sprawls basically. What I got was actually a very interesting, informative, and practical outlook on where the world seems to be heading in terms of urbanization and population density.

The main issue this exhibit tackles is the concern over the influx of population in the coming years. This is a major concern due to dwindling resources and available land. Of the Six cities covered I found Lagos, Istanbul, and Rio de Janerio to be the most interesting. Interesting in the urban factoids and technological proposals put forth in each city’s section.

What drew me most to these three cities is their ‘green tech’ approach to combating the population and resource problems of the future. I’ve been a big fan of meshing technology with nature for a while now, so these ideas really hit home for me.

Starting with Lagos, their focus seems to be on utilizing sustainable sources of energy such as wind, water, and solar technologies. Since 30% of Lagos is composed of water, they plan to develop the water ways into main channels for transportation in the city. They propose that with the canals as a central transport medium, this would alleviate the need for heavy automobile usage. This would also promote small businesses such as street vendors, bike repair points, and boat docks.

Istanbul on the other hand is more of a rural landscape in comparison. Today Istanbul culture values self-organization, local production, micro-facilities, and social interaction. To build upon that, future development would consist of gated communities with repetitive town centers with clusters of open land.

Rio de Janerio’s section depicted a striking contrast with Lagos and Istanbul, in that much of the city is surrounded by forests and is built on hills and mountains. Today there is a vast disparity between rich and poor in Rio, but fortunately their middle class is growing. Unfortunately they the practice of Puxadinhos, or the practice of adding to existing structures with whatever materials available, is in full practice.

I had trouble getting to cover New York since the majority of the visitors flocked to that section. From what I gathered, the main topic of concern is over illegal modification of homes to house more people than legally allowed. I guess I wasn’t as interested in this, since I live and have lived in areas where this practice is rampant.

In regards to drawing comparisons to the texts, I’d have to say we are moving in an opposite direction to them. The cities I mention above show a desire to move toward sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of energy, as well as a push for living within the natural environment rather than destroying it. This pretty much goes against the predictions of the world in Metropolis, The Machine Stops, and Bladerunner. I suppose I’d have to change my mind if an apocalyptic event occurs, but until then things seem optimistic. At least in some parts of the world.

So Bladerunner. Yup.

I’m under the impression that I should have watched this movie before reading the book. After finishing the movie, I have to say it feels a bit rushed? Even more rushed than I considered the novel.

I can see how a viewer watching this movie for the first time without prior knowledge from the book could feel a bit lost. For starters why did Deckard leave the police force in the beginning of the movie? Who is the guy with the cane that follows him around everywhere? Deckard’s only motivation for killing the ‘replicants’ is that he is made to? Since there was no back story on animals in Bladerunner , the entire segment of the voight-kampff test with Rachel isn’t as impactful as it could have been(21:38). Not only the test, but all scenes with synthetic animals have less of an impact because of a lack of background information. A host of all other references or lack there of, put me at constant odds with this movie.

It seems to me that the entirety of the film was based solely on human to replicant interaction. Principally, how Deckard interacts with the replicant’s he is charged with hunting. That is all well and good, but there was just not enough character development for us to care about any of the replicants. A good example of this is ‘Miss Salome’. Instead of the depth we had with Luba Luft in the novel, we have this character that outright attacks Deckard(54:56). Without any sort of meaningful interaction with Deckard, It’s hard to see why he would be as affected by killing ‘her’, when he had no chance to get to know her. Especially since he is supposed to be a veteran bladerunner (12:27).

Deckard’s lack of back story is another point of frustration here. Who were those people in the photographs on his piano (1:08:22)? Why didn’t he move off planet? Without Iran from the novel, Deckard has no grounding facet to his character. Instead he is presented as this loner-maverick that realizes he has a thing for replicants, after having killed so many; another puzzling thing.

Another defining aspect of the film seems to be, that it relies to much on visuals to tell it’s narrative. A good chunk of screen time is dedicated to showing the metropolis. From the Tyrell pyramids to the streets of the city. It seems to want to over impress onto viewers into seeing how artificial and ‘dystopian’ the world is. I suppose that is the natural thing for movies to do, but it leaves precious little screen time for the things that matter. Namely developing the characters, and through that, opening up the possibility for layered and complex motives.

As it stands, the film leaves it up to the actors and actresses to display their intentions and internal struggles through their acting. While I applaud the actors for their work, it all ultimately falls flat do to lack of proper context and backstory. The only relationship that can somewhat make sense, is Deckard’s infatuation with Rachel. Even that is a very shaky assumption. I get that he feels bad about her short life span and borrowed memories, but is that a reasonable pretense for ‘love'(1:51:11). Rather it seems Deckard is motivated out of guilt than anything else.

In closing Bladerunner feels rushed and underdeveloped compared to the novel. The Novel shines in its layered complexity, the movie on the other hand, feels shallow in comparison. Granted I feel the Novel could have had a more satisfying end as I mentioned in my previous posts; I would still choose the novel over the movie any day. Did I enjoy the movie? I think I would have, if as I said in the beginning, I had watched it before reading the novel.

Does it make sense to be underwhelmed?

As I said in class when asked how I felt about the novel; I’m a little disappointed. That mostly stems from the speed at which everything was ‘resolved’; in other words it felt really rushed. We go from the St. Francis Hotel, to Isidore’s apartment, to Rick’s apartment, then to some where up north of San Fran for some reason, then back to Rick’s apartment.

In regards to the androids, why develop characters only to give them such an unfulfilling and mundane end. The confrontation between Roy Baty and Rick was most underwhelming, especially due to to how fearful Rick made Baty out to be [chp(16):paragraph(3)]. Priss Stratton went to meet met her demise in half a page, even though she had a chapter or so dedicated to developing her [chp 6,7,18]. I suppose you could argue that the author was trying to paint them to ‘ultimately be a machine’. I just feel unfulfilled as these characters probably had more to offer, and should have put up more of a fight.

You might be saying that I’m glazing over very interesting details. That may be true, but in this case I’m viewing the narrative in macroscopic perspective. Take for example a forest. The insects, or the decay a fallen of a fallen tree, the activity going on in a small river, or the many other small elements that contribute to what we call a ‘forest’ may seem interesting. However its the culmination of all those parts together and seeing to where every ends up is what matters to me at the end of a plot. Which ultimately seems to be just Rick having a reconnect with his wife [chp 22:pp241-244].

Another gripe of mine of this story is Mercerism. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this element is able to exist. As I understand it some old retired drunk somewhere in Indiana, communicates to everyone in the solar system through ’empathy’ boxes. What are empathy boxes? Who distributed them? Is this Wilber Mercer character some kind of powerful psionic? If so there’s no mention of it. How did he communicate with Rick [220:p4] without an empathy box? Whats with the barren terrain and the hill Wilbur is always trying to climb? I can see what it could mean, but what does it actually mean. All these questions seem to go unanswered, at least to me.

It seems all androids in the narrative have some sort of connection with each other. Almost as if they are working together to further their own cause. At the end of chapter 17, it seems as though Rachel knew what buster’s special was going to be about. On pages 208 and 209, the three androids also seemed to know what Buster was going to announce. When it was later revealed that Buster was an android it really cemented the idea in my head that they, all the androids, might be working with each other. In chapter 17, Rachel seems to allude to the fact that the Rosen Association had purposefully sent her to intervene in Rick’s hunt for the androids. If this is the case then we can assume that the Association is playing a large part in helping preserve renegade androids. If so, why?

Lastly my answer to the questions, “What does it mean to be human?” or “Is there a difference between humans and androids?” would simply be: does it really matter? One of the main plot points is that these androids are so advanced that the only way to determine their ‘race’ is if they have a certain amount of empathy. At that point is it really relevant to test them? They feel and cooperate with one another, and have the ability to want higher statuses for themselves. Aren’t humans just organic machines anyway?

More Feels. More to consider.

It’s challenging to not encompass the rest of the novel in my post. After reading the whole thing I feel the need to talk about all of it, especially my thoughts about the story’s conclusion. Regardless of that, there is no shortage of things to talk about in the span of ten chapters. If I do however mention some things that go past chapter fifteen, then I do apologize in advance.

Unlike the previous chapters, these following ones seem to pick up the pace. The setting has already been described; less focus is dedicated to giving the reader a visualization of the world. Deckard the main protagonist has a clear objective, and the route to that objective is clearly defined. The objective being the elimination of the remaining six androids. In retrospect its easy to remember the course of events as each chapter is either Deckard working towards that final objective, or an aside third perspective on Isidore’s interactions with androids. More on Isidore below. As his pertinence to the story, among other characters, is something I questioned my entire read.

Such a simple and clear cut plot on the surface can ,and is , literally summed up on the back of the book; Joe-Shmo hunts rouge androids in a futuristic society. The real treat here is the interactions Deckard and Isidore makes with the androids. How through the course of the narrative, they are ultimately changed in some significant way, at it’s conclusion.

Deckard at the end of chapter Fifteen had to buy a goat to alleviate the stress incurred from his latest android ‘retired’, and his wounded ego from his experience with Phil Resch (p.170). I find two things interesting with this development. First is that he had ‘acquired’ an animal in exchange for the money he made killing a sentient being. Especially after killing Luba Luft, I’m sure Deckard had some internal conflict about buying that goat. Secondly, the repeated use of the term ‘retire’ in reference to ‘killing’ an android, seems a bit forced as to dehumanize androids. I think it would be kind of funny had the author used ‘end’ instead of ‘retire’, especially by today’s connotations of the phrase ‘end you’. We can clearly see where Deckard’s ’empathy’ for androids of the fairer sex is leading him(p183). I’m sure Resch had a hand in this respect (p143), however Deckard already admitted to having an attraction to female androids before his encounter with Resch(p95).

Isidore’s journey through the novel is some what of an enigma to me. I’m unsure of his importance, if any, in this story. My main understanding of Isidore is that he is the author’s tool to convey certain ideas. What those ideas are, can be up to debate. From my perspective, Isidore embodies the prospect of accepting androids as equals. This can be evidenced in that Isidore considers androids, humans, and animals equally alive and deserving of some measure of respect (p72,77). His character’s social standing in the story, mirrors societies perspective on androids. I find it intriguing that the author chose to embody such a concept, in a mentally deficient mutant.

However a lofty of a position in the narrative that may be, the execution of his tale is a lot less poignant. Most of his scenes with the exception for his introductory chapter, is him interacting or reflecting on artificial life.

I’d like to think that I was pretty spot on in my assumption that empathy, or at least the concept of it, is the central topic trying to be conveyed in this novel. When I say empathy I’m condensing the questions I’ve asked or implied in my previous post: What is it? What is it to Humans vs. Androids? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having it?

These are the questions I’ve gleaned from the story; as trying to either answer or bring it to peoples attention. In terms of what it is? I think the widely accepted definition of “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” explains it adequately enough. However, in this story you are constantly asking: “can a machine do this”?

If empathy as Deckard explains it in chapter three, boils down to a mechanism for beings of higher intelligence to better cooperate with one another. How does that explain the situation of the three remaining Androids? Actually, the original eight from Mars, since they had to band together to carryout their plan of escape. I constantly asked whether they felt camaraderie and ’empathy’ towards one another, in the latter chapters. Their bond could be described as something derived from a need to survive or better their situation in life. However, that line of thinking conflicts with the actions of Garland, Luba Luft, and Pokolov who chose to integrate themselves into Human society. Especially in the case of Luba Luft, who appreciated human art and music. She also showed a deep understanding of human vs. android psychology, stating “there is something very strange and touching about humans” (133).

In closing I’d like to leave everyone with some extra food for thought:

In regards to empathy, could we reference pack mentality viewed in animals? When I mention pack mentality, naturally many people would think of wolves or other predatory animals. However in many cases, especially with herbivores and omnivores, animals tend to gravitate to creating groups. Why? I’d suspect for an increased survivability, but is there something more at work? I’d like to pose that perhaps the P.K. Dick specifically killed off animal populations in this narrative to symbolize the death of the ‘natural’ empathy animals display towards one another.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking that interaction between humans over the internet, and there interactions between androids and humans in the story bear some resemblance. Over the internet it can be observed that people communicating through text show a large gap in terms of accountability. What I mean is that people act differently when interacting over a great distance rather than face to face. Often times that leads to a lack of ’empathy’ towards others over the internet. Text language is very neutral, almost devoid of emotion. This makes it hard to decipher the intentions of the other party. Can this lack of accountability be seen in the androids of the story? Perhaps the androids are considered to have no accountability for the emotions of others, android or human.