Friday, February 1, 2013

Weekly Response - Philip K. Dick & Marcuse, Week 2

As always, post your questions/comments/thoughts as comments to this post.


Karen Knutson said...

If Mercer is fake, then what happened at the end with Rick at then end when he traveled into the wilderness and had a Mercer-experience that wasn't with the empathy box? Is there a 'real' Mercer and a fake one that is supposed to allude to false gods and a'true god.' He also seems to be fairly religious at the end. Also Isodore just lets Rick in fairly easily even though he became dependent on the androids for social interactions, was that because of the spider mutilation and how it drove him a little nuts and wanted them punished for their actions? Their normal diets must be terrible if there is a black market for food. Its also interesting how Isodore slips up about animals when he wishes for gravy, which is a common android slip-up.

Brian DeWillie said...

"Automation in its largest sense means, in effect, the end of measurement of work. ... With automation, you can't measure output of a single man; you now have to measure simply equipment utilization. If that is generalized as a kind of concept ... there is no longer, for example, any reason at all to pay a man by the piece or pay him by the hour,--that is to say, there is no more reason to keep up the 'dual pay system' of salaries and wages." (chapter 2)

I found this quote in Marcuse to be really interesting. This kind of goes along with something he said earlier in the chapter about workers moving from blue-collar work to white-collar work - "For muscular fatigue technology has substituted tension and/or mental effort." Workers are now measured by their ability to utilize the automation rather than their skill in something. This is happening in todays society as well with people worried about losing jobs to machines and also with work being mentally stressful rather than physically demanding.

Taylor Hochuli said...

My first part of this entry takes the form of a question; what happens with the Mercer hallucination at the end of the novel? We have Buster Friendly exposing the Mercerism as a fake religion that is all completely staged. The robots accept it very quickly, but the human protagonists don’t accept it as easily. We have J.R. Isidore seeing a spider re-animate and a hallucination of Mercer appears. He acknowledges that he is fake and says that he is flawed in many ways. Then, we have Rick Deckard seeing Mercer informing him to kill the robot on the stairs, even though he will be outside of the religion. I partially understand this reincarnation as a religious and human aspect, but not farther than that. The idea that the robots can toss aside the religion once they see it as illogical is special to them, whereas the humans will have a harder time removing themselves from the religion is very clear. As weird hallucination Mercer puts it, “[the robots] will have trouble understanding why nothing has changed” (pg. 214 Dick, 1968). This emotional bonding and tie to this religion won’t just go away, and this represents a great divide between the robots and the human’s in the novel. However, I’m still confused on why the hallucinations appear and if there is any deeper meaning or idea I am missing.

After going through the second chapter of Marcuse, I began to see more of the American side of Herbert Marcuse and a connection to the novel I read for another class, We. Marcuse continues to criticize and point out flaws that inhibit social change in both Communism and Capitalism, but at times I saw a tendency to side more with America which I aptly noted in the margin space with a bold, “America!” The Soviet society is hammered on its mechanization of labor and more dominance over their lives. He comments that they are, “at an earlier stage of industrialization,” and are obsessed with “’catching up with and surpassing’ achievements of capitalism” (Marcuse, Chapter 2). It’s interesting to see how much Marcuse tries to criticize both systems without his own bias, but leaves in just enough American ideals to not be branded as a Communist. Several aspects of this chapter resonated with me due to a book I read called We, in which society becomes all about the rational and calculated. There is also a mechanization of work which sees humans as very structured and organized, but not really doing too much at all. Such is expressed in Marcuse when is refers to, “human atoms at work,” and the, “skills of the head rather than of the hand, of the logician rather than the craftsman” (Macuse, Chapter 2). All the jobs in this dystopia are mind related and no real physical work seems to be done. This demeans the value of a human life to simple numbers rather than cherishing the individual. It is seen later on in Marcuse when he states, “Even the most insane calculations [become] rational; the annihilation of five million people is preferable to that of ten million, twenty million, and so on” (Marcuse, Chapter 2). A similar concept is determined by the protagonist of the book We as he observes that ten men are killed in an accident, but it does not matter because work can continue flawlessly without them. It’s a creepy future imagined by both Marcuse and Yevgeny Zamyatin (author of We).

Dick, Phillip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Random House Group, 1968. Print.
Marcuse, Herbert. One Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon, 1964. Print.

RJSepich said...

I was interested in the dynamic of who is in control between the androids and the humans in the second half of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” While the main human character Rick comes out on top by the end, there is a moment that really grabbed my attention when John Isidore realizes the androids are using him—and he is perfectly fine with that fact.

On page 202, John contemplates whether he is okay with the androids using him to avoid being caught by the bounty hunters, and he concludes that he was okay with being alone before, but now he “can’t go back.” He’s “dependent on them” (Dick 202).

This suggestion that one of the characters is now serving robots, which is a completely 100 percent reversal from the world we know, is utterly stirring. It’s undeniable that Dick has a rhetorical point in this book, and moments such as these stand out to me because the way that he uses his characters to get the reader to think about themes such as what it means to be human and whether humans or robots are really in control is very impressive.

Janine Talis said...

There is a specific quote that Rick says that really gets to me. It is after he brings home the goat, and his wife wants to join with Mercer to share their joy. " 'They'll have our joy,' Rick said, 'but we'll lose. We'll exchange what we feel for what they feel. Our joy will be lost.' " (152). It seems like Rick is equating emotions on a similar level to that of animals, in that they are something owned. Instead of viewing emotions as an intangible, abstract idea that cannot be withdrawn from a person, Rick sees it as something that can be taken from him, like money or his animal.

Another part got me thinking. At one point, Rachael starts wondering what it feels like to be born. This made me wonder, what does it feel like to know you were not born, but made? Frankenstein's monster would probably have an answer to that. But he was unique, while Rachael Rosen is one of many of the same prototype.

Ben Nemeth said...

After reading the second half of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep I've found a lot of good material for my revision piece. I want to revise my essay on false needs to include both the financial strain Rick underwent to get his goat, and the return to an electric animal with the toad at the end of the novel. The acceptance of the toad as good enough satisfies the needs that Rick originally thought could only be fulfilled by a live animal.

I also think I've changed my stance on the empathy boxes. The idea that someone could possibly die while in this merged state originally led me to mistrust the empathy box. But in a world where there might potentially be no one around to talk to, as is the case with John Isidore, empathy and feeling connected to the human race might be the only thing that keeps you sane.