Friday, September 13, 2013

Comments/Questions on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and/or The Shock of the Old

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post. Again: a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved. You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice. Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

18 comments:

Adam Lewis said...
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Adam Lewis said...

I suppose I am not a complete nerd since I've never seen Blade Runner, but it might be fun to check out given Dick's novel. I'm through about 14 chapters and the reading has been easy because I find the story interesting if not a bit confusing at this point. I was sort of waiting for the "twist" that might turn the story completely over but I've only gotten to a tease or two along those lines. I'm very interested to see where this whole Mercerism ideology is leading since it seems like a false religion to keep people in line. I'm getting vibes of 1984 propoganda and Buster Friendly reminds me of the V for Vendetta "England prevails!" guy.

After two chapters of "The Shock of the Old," I know of a couple of people who might explode upon reading about the proposal that NASA has cost us more than the benefits it has created. I actually completely agree. I don't spend vast amounts of time studying what the program is doing, but I do know that it seems like funding our public schools would be more important than observing how light bends and guessing that a habitable planet might be the cause some 400 light years away or picking up rocks on Mars. I understand the point of science for science's sake, but that is a lot of money. To me, spending this kind of money on space exploration is like going on a safari instead of paying off the credit card.

The material is a bit dry, it definitely reads like a history book with more of a tangential lean, but so far it is interesting to consider what makes an innovation "significant."

Carmen Condeluci said...

In beginning to read DADES, I found myself terribly confused at the beginning of the first chapter. So much so, that I had to re-read it. It wasn't the plot of the chapter that confused me, but rather high frequency of specific terminology. Within the first couple paragraphs, the reader is introduced to penfields, andys, mood organs, and a variety of "dials". Although all of these things are explained soon later in the novel, I felt that having the main characters refer to them with much explanation left me confused about their significance within Deckard's interaction with both his wife and Barbour. However, once I realized how devices like the mood organ affected the characters, the first chapter certainly does a good job of showing the post-apocalyptic horror that is now Earth. Not only is the landscape destroyed by World War Terminus, but the remaining populace is forced to where lead codpieces to protect their genes and their emotions are controlled by numbers punched into a machine. Like Adam mentioned, this, along with the mentioning of the empathy-centralized religion Mercerism, give me strong feeling towards a 1984-esque society, but with more radioactive dust and laser pistols.

Carl Santavicca said...

I would have to agree with Adam and Carmen; at first I found DADES a little confusing and technical in the way certain things were described. It definitely is a dystopic view of the future, complete with radioactive dust caused by a world war. From what I see so far it seems like PKD is emphasizing how reliant humans are on machines(i.e. mood organ, android labor, etc.) in some what of a pre-Matrix world and Mercerism is kind of a hippy style peace and love religion.
It's kind of funny that Adam mentions this books tie in with the movie Bladerunner because at first I though DADES reminded me of the movie Total Recall, which I came to find out was also based on a PKD novel. Upon further research I found there are a ton of movies based, loosely of course, on his novels. I also found a program on Netflix called Prophets of Science Fiction that gives a decent overview of significant science fiction authors, PKD and Mary Shelly Included.

Ronald Rollins said...

I was also initially overwhelmed with the beginning of DADES, but I settled into it pretty quickly. I imagine that it'd be pretty hard to visualize the events had I never watched Blade Runner, though.

Overall, I'm liking the tension that seems to be building up. It's been a while since I've seen Blade Runner, but I feel like DADES is a bit more intense than the movie based on it. It's usually the other way around.

As for The Shock of the Old, I'm not really into it so far. It seems to emphasize the genesis and efficiency of a concept over the mass implementation and refinement of it. While Germany's rockets may not have been the most efficient means of killing people, they led to revolutions in space travel, which in turn inspired a generation. Even if NASA "costs us" money (which is relatively nothing [half a cent per tax dollar] compared to how we waste our money on other programs), it shows us what we can achieve with enough time and effort. Was there anybody in 1969 who heard we landed on the moon and genuinely said, "So what? That's boring"? It gave the world something to be proud of and people today are still amazed that we've left out planet, the result being many scientists and engineers working to take us farther.

Joseph Hastings said...

I am going to have to agree with everyone on how confusing the beginning of DADES is. As I kept reading however the book got a lot more interesting and has me sitting on the edge of my seat. I feel that Rick Deckard and JR Isidore’s stories are going to collide and not in a small way. The fact that Rachael Rosen moved in to the same building as Isidore and is now closer to Deckard has me anticipating something very big is about to happen. Now that she is now an android living on her own makes me believe that it will not turn out well for Deckard. Whatever happens, I feel myself rooting for Deckard to “retire” the androids.

Matthew Schroeder said...

At this point in my college career, this is the third class in which we've read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Despite the repetition, I still love it every time. Reading it the second and third time is almost better than the first; knowing the ending gives me a completely different perspective on so many aspects of the novel.

As for The Shock of the Old, I find it somewhat annoying. Adam Lewis mentioned people who will explode upon reading the bit about NASA costing us more than its benefits; I suppose I'm one of those people. This is a bold statement to make considering the entirety of NASA's spending from its inception until today is less than the US military spends in one year. Every year we spend more money on war than we have ever spent on space exploration and NASA receives criticism for costing too much? What the hell is that? Yes, there are areas which need funding more than NASA, such as education, but why take that money from NASA when it is also beneficial to our species? Why not take it away from one of the many detrimental things we do? Not to mention the inspiration that NASA's achievements have given us. Putting a human on our moon is hands down the coolest thing our species has ever done. It has inspired a generation of scientists to continue the pursuit of knowledge, despite the lack of enthusiasm from the general public or the government.

Sarah Ayre said...

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep had me hooked from the first minute. Even as far as I've gotten I'm not sure what is coming next. Maybe just because i'm coming into this story completely blind, but so far there have been lots of plot twists that I have not seen coming. I find DADES very entertaining and if I didn't have so much else to read, I would totally just keep reading til I finished it. The Shock of the Old I don't enjoy as much. Maybe it's just because I have the kindle version, but I am not even sure of where the chapters end or begin and so that is frustrating. Also the voice of the narrator is frustrating and rather condescending at times, which makes the reading difficult. I find it difficult to listen the argument the narrator is making because his tone keeps distracting me. Overall I'm not enjoying that as much as DADES.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Seeing how I began reading DADES without any previous knowledge about the novel, I like some of my other classmates struggled understanding the humans strong dependence on technology in the beginning. However, the novel is a smooth and easy read (once you understand all the technical terms) and the plot carries on fluently, which I like. Throughout my reading I found myself reflecting on my own technology use and my humanistic morality, especially while Rick administrated the VK testing apparatus on Rachel.

I'm really enjoying the character development between Deckard,Isodore and Rachel Rosen. It'll be interesting if the opposing view points of Deckard and Isodore cross paths later on. Deckard's mission is to retire the androids while Isodore aids the fugitives.

Tolu Dayo said...

First of all i must say that is is definitely an easy read, I love how it is easy to follow because the content is very fascinating and exciting. although I got lost and confused in some of the terms. However for me the most exciting thing about this book is the fact that the characters control their emotion with the use of a console. I mean how cool is that, but then also it is also very scary.

Abby Peters said...

It took me a little longer to overcome the initial confusion in DADES than it seems others did. I have never seen Blade Runner or Total Recall and that seems to have helped a lot of people visualize the plot. It was only after a few chapters in that I was somewhat comfortable with the terminology. Still, I found the pace of the story much quicker than Frankenstein which helped speed my comprehension of the terms along.
I also really like the juxtaposition of Rick and J.R.’s stories. I like the different viewpoints of the situation on earth they offer and I am curious as to when and how their paths will cross.

Nikki Moriello said...

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" grabbed my attention from the very first page. I can tell that the book is going to be unlike anything I've read before. First, I love dystopia novels and the exploration of a post-apocalyptic world. I just like the various ways in which authors explore the possibilities for how the world will end and how the people remaining live. The most shocking, but also one of the most intriguing, attracting, parts of the book (so far) is the inclusion of the Penfield Artificial brain stimulation system that Isidore has in his home. I adore the way Dick uses the dialing pad to add humor to the plot. When Dick writes "594: pleased acknowledgement of husband's superior wisdom in all matters" (7), I actually laughed out loud, but was also sort of disturbed. The idea of being able to feel some emotion that only exists because of some artificial emotion generator is deeply concerning. However, the idea that our society would generate some technology that would temporarily fix our dissatisfaction with our own disappointing lives does not surprise me.
I haven't read the whole first half yet, but I'm very excited to see what the rest of the book has in store.

ajq5623 said...

One thing I find particularly interesting about "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" is the particular choices Philip Dick made towards which aspects of life were kept the same and which to "reinvent." The specific choices really make the reader reflect on how these things might have progressed in the history of the novel. For example tobacco is extremely prevalent in the novel (cigarettes and snuff). Also, on page 32 we see Deckard's secretary using a phone book to find a number to call through a video phone. These choices seem strange to me for various reasons and they possibly could lead to an insight about commentary Dick is making about the progression of technology.

Caleb Radomile said...

I'm loving the book so far and can't wait to read the second half. The only thing I was confused on initially and still suspicious of now is who is and who is not an android. The fact that Rick and his wife have dials had me rereading a lot because this definitely isn't a human feature. Although Rick thinks he is a human and most of his coworkers do too, I can't help but think he is an android. It's been mentioned a few times how Rick has taken the test a long time ago and passed, but what if this was planted in his memory just like Resch and this is foreshadowing him taking it again and failing.It. Anyone could be an android at this point who hasn't taken the test, and who's to say the test isn't legitimate? Or this just could be the conspiracist in me coming out. In the other storyline, I find Mercerism quite interesting, and it reminds me of the Greek myth about Sisyphus. Sisyphus was a king who tried to escape death too many times and was forced by Zeus to roll a bolder up a steep hill, only to have it magically fall back down no matter how many times he pushed it up. Mercerism is similar in that aspect of a never ending climb, but I'm confused to as where this climb is taking place in the book? Is it virtual reality set up by Mercer himself?

Jason Wald said...

This is my second time reading the novel, and there is no doubt that the book gets better with time. The one issue I constantly have involves the mood-organs. After the first chapter, they are almost never brought up again. I can't help but feel that I am missing something, because this is such a significant technology in theory. Having these artificial emotions in the beginning of the book seems to discredit the rest of the novel. Are any of the emotions Richard feels real? How about the empathy that is so crucial to the plot? I am looking forward to exploring this more in class

Nicholas Flynn said...

"The tyranny of an object, he thought. It doesn't know I exist. Like the androids, it had no ability to appreciate the existence of another. He had never thought of this before, the similarity between an electric animal and an andy." p42
In DADES there are classes of both highly intelligent beings and beings of lesser intelligence. These divisions make for interesting prejudices and interactions of characters between classes.
We have the two beings, one intelligent, one not, that are classified as real, desirable, and worthy of life on Earth: humans and animals.
Then we have two other beings, one intelligent, one not, that are classified as fakes, undesirable, and not as worthy of life: androids and electric animals.
The fake beings have their functions, though, as androids provide labor for humans in space, and electric animals provide the cover for the social humiliation associated with not owning an animal. Only slight differences separate the copies from the real beings.
In the case of androids, they are not capable of empathy, as we are often reminded. The test to id an android measures an empathetic response to animals. But androids are good at faking empathy, and are tough to pick out from real humans.
In the case of electric animals, their difference from the real thing isn't clear. They break down sometimes, and someone shows up to fix them, in the same way a real animal who breaks down and gets sick has someone show up to fix them. Everyone has difficulties picking out real animals from fake animals, and to ask the question if an animal is fake or not is socially discouraged.
I could go on and on listing little similarities and differences that connect these four different types of being, but then I'd be here all night. So I'll ask a question. Where I wrote "intelligent" above, I originally had written as "sentient", but then I realized I didn't really know what that word meant, so I looked it up. "That feels or is capable of feeling; having the power or function of sensation or of perception by the senses" OED. So much is made of empathy in the book, but not much of sentience. It seems to me that empathy is the logical progression from sentience. So what stops a sentient android (because after consulting the dictionary, I still believe them to be sentient) from being capable of empathy and specifically of empathy to animals?

Nicholas Flynn said...
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Jared DiSanti said...

I find the voight-kampff test to be similar to the trial of Justine in "Frankenstein" Without any real substantial evidence that a person is an android Deckard uses this test as law in determining whether a being is a human or an android. This would be fine if the test was 100% accurate but the book gives us context clues to conclude that the test has not always been accurate. Several times agents of the Police Department have asked Deckard if the test is accurate and even refer to and incident in Seattle. This makes me believe that the test is not far from the method that was used to convict Justine of her crime.