Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I may be paranoid…but not an android

Human’s dependence on machines/technology in relation to the pure android still intrigues me and even though I’m not finished with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, there has already been some powerful images conveyed. The first chapter starts off with the mood organ. Dial a number, and you may feel whatever you want to feel. You can wake up with a smile even though outside the window, the Earth is crumbling under a cloud of radiation. However, setting your mood as one may set a timer may make the human feel good, at the same time; one’s humanity is being stripped away. Iran could feel this; feel how wrong it was “So although I heard the emptiness intellectually, I didn’t feel it” (Dick 5). “But that used to be considered a sign of mental illness” (Dick 5). So by programming depression into her day, she recaptures her humanity, although to the frustration of her husband, Rick Deckard. At times it’s tempting to just wish all the painful emotions away, but would loosing half our emotions make us less than human? Moreover, would depending on a machine (the mood organ) to regulate those emotions make us more cyborg.

Iran addresses despair, and John Isidore exemplifies human loneliness. Cut off from most other humans in the empty apartment complex, Isidore talks about Wilbur Mercer and the empathy box as the most important things in existence “It’s an extension of your body; it’s the way you touch other humans, it’s the way you stop being alone” (Dick 66). Once again, humans no longer possess the ability it would seem to connect with each other in a meaningful way without the use of technology. For instance, when Isidore goes to greet his new neighbor, he has forgotten social norms and etiquette, and ends up showing up with a block of margarine melting in his hand.

One last observation was the entire system of owning animals and the status symbol. At one time (still today but not to the same degree) an automobile was an obscenely important status symbol for people to take pride in, and in this novel, that symbol remains in the form of animals. Shame for those owning mechanical ones and pride for the owners of rare large animals, the owning of animals gives the leftover inhabitants of Earth some sense of pride as they live their lives slowly decaying from the omnipresent dust, and the Sidney’s catalogue a sense of hope for Rick Deckard to clutch onto.


Kirk said...

Anthony, I think you hit the nail on the head, at least as far as this one aspect of Dick's fascinating novel is concerned. Yes, before we even start coming in contact with the androids, and throughout we are shown how intermeshed the humans themselves are with technology.

As you pointed out, the mood organ and Iran's use of it, the empathy box and Isidor. It is also ironic how Deckard reflects that if it were not for the androids he would not have a job.

So the humans are arguably cyborgs, even in relation to the androids. However the androids, being "just" robots do of course not deserve the equal rights of a living thing.

Deckard, alone seems to be the only character who is/does actually reflect on the paradoxes and contradictions present in his world, his life, and career. And although he never really resolves his issues, he at least seems to come to a point of contentedness about his life.

Anne Gretz said...

I thought, perhaps, the need to own a "real" animal was the human race's need to have some connection to unconditional love. Animals give that, human beings cannot or do not. The electric animals, I suppose, were programed to do this, but it's not REAL.