Class Notes – 2/27/14

How does Caves of Steel stage the encounter of humans and machines?

begins w/clearly lines that get blurred as the novel goes on?
ex. clear line: when first talking about robots, work robots do
ex. blurred: go to Spacetown

humans and machines together – affect one another

robots – human invention. but more rational, more intelligent, physically superior

finite vs. infinite

Daneel – reasoning/logic – emotionless approach

Elijah – human reasoning

main question book posits: to what extent can robots replace humans or can humans be replaced

does it ask or answer that? answers — robot can’t function on own, human has to be there with robot

does this answer make us comfortable or uncomfortable? why might Asimov have written book in this way?

here’s what books says, here’s why we think the book says that

answer of the book is comfortable, not necessarily true. Author maybe couldn’t anticipate types of technology we have now?

what’s diff between a robot replacing a human in a job and a robot replacing a human more generally?

to what extent does a robot replacing a human at a job = making a human beings obsolete

FREE WILL – make decisions

book showed robots can’t function w/o being told what to do  — ex. R. Sammy. Daneel programmed for investigation?

is book not just about line between humans/robots but about fear that robots will replace humans?

humans find meaning in their jobs

conflict —

plot — where machines have religion

Caves of Steel solves conflict — robot learns mercy — (but do we find that convincing?)


What does it mean to be human?

Can machines have consciousness?

Can machines exhibit free will


Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?



free will

inorganic / organic

cyborg = middle ground between human and robot — Frankenstein

android — humanoid robot —- cyborg –> human enhanced or replaced with mechanical parts

humans / animals — instinct, humans use reason and logic to refrain from instinct

— humans are a type of animal — we’re mammals, just smarter.

disagree that we are smarter. we recognize intelligence in ourselves before others. we see facial expressions. some animals express selves in sounds/ways we can’t understand. about what we are raised to think about intelligence

humans have free will/ animals — repetition

what is consciousness?

being self-aware — knowing that you exist

something can’t be self–aware without having emotions


ask why you are alive

what ties us together is that we we seek nuture/tension/need to exist / can be broken


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 

 What question do you think this title is really posing?

— animals — status, wealth. do androids have desire for animals, power?

— if there is correlation between mechanical animal
humans:animals :: androids:mechanical animals
are androids able to do anything that connects them in abstract way that connects them somehow — think about mechanical animals
— our conceptual structure is different from androids so we can’t understand them or understand how they understand exactly

— if androids feel that they need a connection to other synthetic animals the way we connect to animals — the way we connect sheep

— ppl try to sleep – count sheep — do androids count off electric sheep — subconscious or do they just turn off. if they have a subconscious they need to turn off

how human are androids

do androids have imagination? consciousness?

animals — empathy

opening scenes — satire of suburbia

what is the role of animals in this society?
— class — rarer animal — shows how much money you have — robot animals cheaper
— stanley’s — blue book for animals — price lists

embarrassing to have a robotic animal

only reason to have a fake animal — to show I have a rare animal — illusion of having the real thing

animals replacing way suburbia sees children — cf. kids — if married, why don’t you have an animal.

animals are an anchor for normalcy — reminds of times

humans v. androids — humans capable of empathy
cf. psycho killer — classic trope – kills animals
in this society, androids mixed
to show your HUMANITY by having an animal
importance of having an animal is your humanity

he wants something that’s real

real / fake




Voigt-Kampf test — empathy – ch. 5

In-class group assignment –> come up with your own imaginary test to be able to tell the difference between androids and humans




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