Human nature, both in thought and existence, is a complexity that can no sooner be summed up in a simple essay than a full blown dissertation thesis. Human nature effectively transcends nature and in its application, attempts to pacify and control nature itself. Technology, simply put is just one elaborate creation resulting from the evolution of human thought and works hand in hand in advancing our nature, but never transcending the nature which created it. Human nature, it appears, is the pinnacle of our existence, not soon to be replaced by the mere technologies we create within that realm. In effect, technology has become very much a part of human nature, but human nature cannot exist as a part of that technology which we create.
In Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, he argues the point that androids are unable to express the human emotion of empathy. The post war dystopian society functions entirely by the human connection through empathy, however androids do not possess the ability to empathize with humans, animals or even other androids. This connection crafted through human nature is embodied in Mercerism, the state religion which seems to hold humankind together. Androids, the height of technological representation in this novel envy this human ability and despite their efforts, remain unable to express empathy. This condition of human nature is unattainable by the technology created by mankind and acts as the barrier by which technology can be segregated from human nature as the subordinate entity.
The representation of human nature being a subordinate part of technology manifests itself in a different manner in this book. The polar opposite to Mercer and the teachings of human empathy that connects humankind and transcends the technology intertwined, Buster Friendly is the representation of technological control over human nature. Buster Friendly is revealed to be an android, calculating and manipulative in his means to discard Mercer as a fraud and discredit humanity with its empathetic superiority to the androids. The ultimate goal of Buster Friendly appears to be the toppling of Mercerism, empathy, and seemingly the only thing that remains to set humans as the masters of technology. This plan backfires and it is discovered that despite knowing the fraudulent nature of their beliefs, humans still manage to connect with each other in this way, maybe even more so than ever.
The failure of Buster Friendly to remove the bond of human empathy emphasizes the subtle undertone that appeared throughout the novel that humans and human nature possess some quality that transcends all other existence. This bond cannot be taken away and remains the superior factor of control that human nature has over technology in the end. As the gap between human nature and technology grows narrower over time, it appears that Phillip Dick argues that human nature will always supersede the technology we create because of features that can never be mimicked into the artificial realm.
This concept of human nature’s superiority to technology due to un-mimicked attributes is also manifested by Lyotard in his statements about artificial intelligence and the inability to preserve human thought into immortality in this way. While Dick argues that human nature possesses attributes of empathy and a communal connection with one another, Lyotard points toward the nature of human thought as the one superior element that defines human nature. Human thought as Lyotard describes it, is a reflexive process which relies on a physical existence connected to the human perception in order to function. Despite the attempts of technology to mimic these attributes, it seems that only a human may truly be human. Further described in connection with gender and the conflict which gender difference creates for human thought to exist, Lyotard essentially argues that artificial intelligence may never effectively mimic the human condition and never achieve the status of true thought as we understand it. The nature of human thought is yet another shortcoming of technology which subordinates it to human nature.
Returning to the many shortcomings of technology posed in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, another prominent point stands out in defining technology as the subordinate to human nature. As with the Voigt-Kampff test as a way to distinguish androids from humans, it is revealed that this test is the fourth revision for identifying the newer version androids. Though the validity of the test holds up in the novel, there is no doubt that it too will eventually fail to keep ahead of the ever advancing technology. There will inevitably be yet another test to replace it however and this cycle persists in such a way that technology is never quite as advanced as the human’s testing the limits. Despite the rapid development of technology, human nature evolves just as quickly and remains ahead of the technology it creates, keeping the controlled balance in the hands of the superior force.
It is also important to note that not only does human nature remain ahead of the technology which is advancing not far behind, but it is also the driving force which develops that technology. As in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the force which develops the technology is the combined efforts from the Rosen Corporation and the demand of human colonists for more convincing android counterparts. Humans are and conceivably will always remain at the forefront as the driving force which creates technology and allows for its advancement. Though the idea is not practical, humans can obliterate every technological advancement of the industrialized world in a matter of years and despite the possible casualties, some subset of the population would survive and an even smaller subset would go without consequence. The existence of technology relies solely on the compliance and drive of human nature to advance its ranks and continue to produce that which drives our technological fantasies. However, as of right now, we are still separated enough to continue survival, no matter how primeval that existence may be, without the aid or existence of technology. Technology may be what defines human nature from the rest of the animal kingdom, but it is certainly not a necessity for the survival of the human population in the most primitive sense. Humans are creators and masters of technology, not slaves to the tools and techniques it defines.