Author Archives: Prof. Gold

Class Notes – 3/6/14

Approaching Criticism

— Emerson — we read to start our own teams

Do Androids Dream

— Human/Machine –


living, organic, flesh and blood, feelings, irrational, conscience, compassionate, skilled, spontaneous, greedy, reproductive, self-healing/repairing


fabricated, artificial, cold, indifferent, mechanical, logical, rational, dispassionate, binary, slaves, predictable, calculated, man-made, assembled

compare moments when a robot “dies” in Androids

— these moments might show us something interesting about how the novel portrays robot sentience, human relationships to robots, and the blurred lines between humans and robots

choose a theme or repeated element to explore — ie., moments when a robot is shot in Androids — and we assemble the evidence — get all of those moments together in front of us, and then compare them

notice similarities and differences

— look at whole scene — person pulling trigger, too

speculate on why you think that is so and what the differences and similarities mean

cf. androids from CS to Androids

why in both books are there new, advanced robotic models —

as robots become more advanced they will effect our society’

1. Moments where androids are killed

2. Moments where the Voigt-Kampf test is administered 

3. Moments that involve animals

4. Moments involving Mercer/Mercerism

5. Moments where people question their own identity 

6. Moments of interaction (or discussions of interaction) between human males and android females

7. Moments in which the main character reflects and becomes merciful

8. Moments where we see physical structures crumbling (kipple)

9. Moments where we see the effects of dust

10. Moments where we see the importance of the TV show/radio

11. Moments where sleep/rest is discussed


Group 1

compared moments when robots die in Androids

as each android died — more graphic — new coming —



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




Class Notes – 2/13/14

How cultural differences become grounds for distrust, projection of fear

Analysis of themes in Caves of Steel

Group work:

each group picks 2 themes

for each theme, find 3 passages that 1) are significant for that theme; 2) are rich in meaning and/or metaphorical; and 3) that show some development of the theme or progression/shift in the way it appears during the course of the book


Group 1: Ori, Martin, Chris, Sasha, Jonathan

  1. Human-spacer relations — p. 118
  2. Conformity vs. individualism

Group 2: Tristan, Michael R., Jenny, Pedro, Raymond

  1. Colonization / survival of humankind – p.0124
  2. Fall of Society
  3. Tolerance

Group 3: Sergiy, Mohommad, Danielle, Yingwen

  1. Human/robot tensions
  2. biblical references
  3. issue of power

Group 4: Rev, Jonathan, Carlos, Daiane, Jamal

  1. human-spacer relations
  2. attitudes towards emigration

Class Notes – 2/6/14

OpenLab introduction

Open Lab Help Documents

 Ways of analyzing a literary text



  • relationships they have with other characters
  • character development


  • what genre(s) is the text part of
  • what generic conventions does the text employ or disrupt?

Language of the Text

  • Figurative language of the text – beyond the actual meaning — symbolic language


Theme / Motif – a reoccurring set of issues/ideas in the text



Textual History

versions of the text




altered for mass-market appeal




  • authorial intention — how do we know the author’s intention? should the author’s intention be privileged over other possible interpretations? —-> multiplicity of meaning. —> is interpretation of a text up for everyone to discuss or should the author have special privilege to adjudicate meanings?
  • cf. movies –> director interpreting a book —-> adaptation
  • is the author just another reader after the text is released? —>
  • line between what is part of the text and what is interpretation?
  • trying to assign motives to the author is problematic
  • how do we know what an author intends? — ask him. What if author misleads? what if author is dead? —> read biographies. rea
  • Author
  • biographies
  • introduction to an edition
  • life/ideas
  • interviews
  • wikipedia???
  • look at records related to life
  • journals
  • historical/socio-economic
  • analyze whole collection of books
  • newspaper articles
  • letters
  • read authors who inspired that authork
  • other authors in genre



Political/Social/Historical Context

  • what beliefs were generally held about the topic of book? ex. robots 150 years ago
  • social/racial/class issues at time
  • laws, constitutions – what type of government in country
  • economic issues – ex. industrialization of country
  • technological advances/issues/development
  • intellectual climate — what were people talking about, etc.


PRIMARY SOURCES — related to original publication. contemporaneous with it.

  • book itself
  • interview
  • writings by the author — journals, letters, manuscripts, published books
  • recordings of author speaking
  • autobiography
  • political documents — ex. presidential speech. text of a law
  • media recordings from that time

SECONDARY SOURCES — comes second/afterwards. provides analysis or intepretation

  • biography
  • critics writing about the book — newspapers, magazines, academic journals, academic books
  • online interpretation — blogs, etc.
  • documentary






  • List 4-5 specific themes/motifs you see in the book
  • List 2-3 moments in the book — specific passages — that seem to you worthy of extended discussion (perhaps because they relate to the themes you listed, perhaps because they are really complicated). Look for especially rich/complicated/interesting moments that we can unpack together. Rich mineral deposits of textual meaning that we can break apart and examine.


  • Spacer/Human relations
  • Human survival —
  • Biblical references/allegories
  • Socialism/communal living
  • artificial / natural
  • efficiency – streamlining/regulating human behavior
  • earthmen/women viewed as primitives by spacers
  • classification — social stratification
  • conformity vs. individual expression (architecture/art)
  • human/robot tensions — fear that robots will take over jobs, or that robots will become as human as humans, will eradicate life on earth.
  • innocence of robots — r. sammy’s stupid smile (friendship circuit)
  • earthbound robots (r.sammy) vs. spacer robtots (olivaw)
  • fall of society on earth – Lije looking back at when it used to be better
  • tolerance/xenophobia — earthpeople afraid of spacers. tensions — cf. immigration stances in US
  • relation of spacer planets to earth — issues of power
  • spacer disgust at earthpeople — fear of disease

Prof. Gold’s

  • Foreignness/disease infection
  • line between human and robot
  • colonization – earth to space, space to earth
  • social class / privilege
  • urban space
  • biblical allusions
  • privacy / sexual issues

p. 91 — blood prick
— being treated like an animal — his consent doesn’t matter – because he’s a diseased earthman

— spacers treating humans as human colonizers used to treat colonized people

— issues of power

— themes — spacers/humans —

— spacers as GMO — selected for height, etc.

— spacers view earth as wild and untamed as earthpeople view life outside city walls

— trust — fear

— transgressiveness of pin prick/blood test

— fear of contamination

— border crossings

Class Notes – 1/30/14

Group 5 (Henry, Danny, Mohammad, Sergiy, Steven)


  • Favorite Unit: space

problems — weapons, decivilization (loss of civilized behavior), King’s Plaza riot – unconrolled. Shortage of resources/overpopulation –

  • in 1000 years – no humans, just machines. cf drone warfare — machines do the fighting for humans (see movie Surrogates)
  • weapons in short term, advancing rapidly from rifle/pistol. now weapons of mass destruction. maybe in 500 years, bombs to destroy planet

Group 3 (Martin, Daiane, Sasha, Rev, Jonathan)

  • Favorite unit: human/machine
  • Biggest problem facing humaniy: running out of natural resources
  • 100 years: won’t change much
  • 500 — tipping point, run out of food. mass hunger, only rich eat well
  • 1000 years — anoher tipping point — make synthetic food

Group 4 (Yingweng, Ori, John, David, Pedro)

  • future earth — depicts a real future — possible future, not just spitballing
  • Biggest problem facing humanity: overpopulation
  • 100 yrs: housing, food shortages
  • 500 yrs:
  • 1000 yrs: only getting worse – move to another planet

(corporations – media, financial crises, weapons — all tied to corporations – power, most money)

Group 6 (Chris, Edgar, Raymond, Carlos, Alex)

Favorite unit: Future Earth/Space

  • Biggest problem facing humanity: overpopulation, waste, no space for waste
  • 100 yrs – launch waste into space
  • 500 yrs – exploring space more, maybe find something habitable
  • 1000 yrs – take stuff we’ve launched into space and mine i for resources

Group 1 (Jenny, Mike, Tristan, Juan, Jamal)

Favorite Unit – Future earth — idea of unknown. no one knows what people on earth will actually do. most relatable

  • Biggest problem facing humanity: depleting our resources
  • 100 yrs — we will adapt as we’ve continued to adapt. will be expensive to use iron, oil in 100 years.
  •  solar energy one day will be more profitable than oil
  • 500 yrs – exxon will be all about solar energy in 500 years. africa — govts growing, will make own food — come up w/synthetic rsources. but maybe carcenegentic —
  • 1000 yrs

Group 2 (Marina, Thomas, Aliana, Michael, Dani)

Favorite unit: future earth

Biggest problem facing humanity: overpopulation, pollution. humanity falling into cycles

100 yrs –

500 yrs

1000 yrs – maybe totally diff situation o similar to what life is like now


Frames of reference — how will we look in

100 years

500 years

1000 years

1000000000000000000000 years?

this semester, we’ll be reading authors who have given serious though to past, present, future, and imaginary time



Assignments for 2/6

Assignments for next week:
1. Read pp. 1-100 Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel
2. Write a ~250 word reading journal around the question of differences between CoS and our own world. What makes those differences interesting?
3. Create an account on the OpenLab if you don’t already have one
4. Join our course –