Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?





Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Phillip K. Dick focuses on what it means to be human in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? He bases his work in a world where technology and machines have improved so much to the extent that humans can only rely on empathy to distinguish themselves from androids. The world has faced much devastation, and most of the animals have become extinct. Owning an animal has become more of a luxury to the people on earth. Some humans have opted to go to Mars and live there to escape the difficult situation. Those who remain, like Rick, have to find a way to survive that is as human as possible, even if this means depending on the very technology that seems to take most of their humanity away.

The author recognizes the value and worth of technology in future. He envisions the world where humans compete side by side with the technology that they built. He dwells on the negative effects that technology can have. The escaped androids that Rick has to hunt have killed their human owners. They are willing to kill anyone so that they can survive. They are intelligent and are able to mimic humans. Their very nature makes the reader question the significance of technology in the world. For instance, one cannot help but wonder if it is necessary to have androids in the first place.

Many people tend to think that the ability to reason and understand distinguishes humans from non-humans. However, Dick does not seem to have this idea in the book. Instead, he tends to focus more on the power of emotions, specifically empathy, as the one thing that binds humanity. In the book, living things are categorized in the same class and their competition is on the artificial life created, specifically the development of androids. Humans desire to have a connection with a real animal. They are even willing to take care of electric animals so that they can have a semblance of life. This is important because it directs most of the action in the story. Rick desires to have a real animal because he wants something that will return the same affection he shows. He uses empathy to conduct his job well as a bounty hunter.

Empathy may be valued as a human emotion, but it is clear that people are not willing to practice it all the time. People have empathy when it seems to suit them the most. They are willing to be empathetic towards animals but they have different levels of empathy to the androids. Rick and the other bounty hunters are ready to kill the androids, without any display of empathy. Rick comforts himself with the thought that he has never killed a human being. However, he does not question whether it is important or necessary for him to kill all androids. Rick’s willingness to kill the androids is seen more as a way for him to climb the social ladder. He knows that he will be able to do this when he acquires a real animal. He can only acquire a real animal when he earns enough money as a bounty hunter. This means killing more androids.

In a world where artificial intelligence and life have become more of a reality than a dream, it has become necessary to examine some of the issues that are manifest in the book. Artificial intelligence has become a reality today. Technology has advanced to a great deal today, although it has not reached the extent envisioned in the book. The need to distinguish between the value of humanity and artificial life has become important. In the book, corporations such as Rosen are willing to do anything to remain profitable. This includes encouraging the killing of bounty hunters. There is a need to examine the degree to which corporations are willing to go to advance their need and desire for capitalism. Many corporations today are willing to work for the benefit of the people and they are ethical in their approach. They have a desire to demonstrate a positive image to the public. Therefore, their technological developments are meant to improve people’s lives for the better. However, some of these developments have contributed to isolation and unemployment. For instance, when factories opt to use robots in place of machines, their intention is to save on costs. However, such factories do not consider the fact that their actions have led to loss of jobs. People working with machinery have to work alone for most of the time and they end up losing human connections. These elements are necessary to consider today. Such factories are equivalent of Rosen in the book.

Despite the tragedy that has faced the earth, the negative elements associated with humanity such as discrimination, prejudice, and classicism, continues to plague the inhabitants. The author notes that not everyone is allowed to move to Mars. Those who are classified as ‘chickenheads’, such as John Isidore, do not have what it takes to live in Mars. Even on earth, Isidore lives alone in the building. Others do not consider him worthy because of his genetic condition. Technology is meant to make life easier and to draw people together. Yet it is clear from John’s life that this may not be the case. The world has become tragic because of technological advancement, which led to the development of weapons that destroyed most of the earth. Such action isolated people like John from the rest of humanity. Another way that technology seems divisive is in the ability to own animals. Technology has helped people to own electric animals but this possibility has not removed people’s desire to own a real animal. The ability to own an animal should have worked to bring people together and to remove or hide the differences between them. However, this is not the case. People own electric animals because they cannot afford real ones. Those who own real animals tend to think lowly of those with electric animals. Hence, classicism remains present because of the ability to own an animal.

In the novel, the people get the chance to escape the effects of radioactive elements by emigrating to Mars. They have a chance to escape from the consequences, which resulted from their actions. They get a chance to preserve humanity since they will escape from radioactive poisoning. This is classic case of human escapism. People often do things that endanger their lives and the lives of others. However, they always get a chance of preservation. Other animals and living things do not get this chance. They have to continue suffering the actions of human beings. Presently, human activities have resulted in a degradation of the eco system. The situation today is not far from what was described in the novel, since some animals have already become extinct. People’s actions that are aimed at benefiting humanity do not always work out as intended. However, they are not willing to face the consequences of their actions and suffer with the other living things. They will always seek a way out of the situation that they have created.

Dick may have written the book in the 1960s, but some of the things that he envisioned are already happening. The book is enlightening especially on matters concerning the significance and usefulness of technology. It highlights diverse issues on what defines humanity. It also makes the readers to question the extent to which people are willing to go to advance their self-interests. The book highlights the power that people have over other living things. They have the capability to destroy life, yet they always find a way of escaping the negative consequences of their actions.

Work Cited:

Dick, Phillip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: A Del Rey Books, 1968. Print

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