How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection
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How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The stranger-than-fiction story of the ingenious creation and loss of an artificially intelligent android of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick

In late January 2006, a young robotocist on the way to Google headquarters lost an overnight bag on a flight somewhere between Dallas and Las Vegas. In it was a fully functional head of the android replica of Philip K. Dick, cult...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
So I'll be honest when I saw this in Vine I debated about it for awhile because hey even when getting free stuff I want stuff I'd like. At first I thought I must read this. Why? Because it's about people not only building an android but losing its head. C'mon what's not to love? Even more awesome when you know this is true. I LOVE robots/androids. The trip to Disneyland when I finally saw ASIMO? That was the highlight of that trip. Then came the second thought -- while I do love robots, I'm oddl...more
Phillip K. Dick, androids, artificial intelligence what's not to like? Reading this book's discussion on artificial intelligence reminded me a bit of the drsbaitso game that came with the soundblaster hardware long ago. It seems that the android created in Philip K. Dick's likeness also talked in circles sometimes. What struck me the most after reading this book is how much mechanical labor was put into making a robot appear human. Special silicone skin, motors with wires hidden under the skin t...more
Jeremy Birks
The story about developing a lifelike android that so closely resembles science fiction writer Philip K. Dick that it's difficult to tell the difference between man and machine almost sounds like a story PKD himself would write. A slide show in book form, Dufty sheds light on how collaborations occur between the worlds of science and academia. He also explores the philosophical question of what makes us human and the possibility of building an android who could truly hide among us, a paranoia th...more
After finishing How to Build an Android, I wondered why anyone would bother writing a book about the Philip K. Dick Android. Sure, it was interesting, but the topic seemed more suitable for publication in the form of a series of magazine articles. There just didn't seem to be enough relevant information/scientific and cultural relevance to justify a full length book. This book would have been much more interesting had it tried to intertwine the story of the android either with the biography of D...more
Joe Kendall
Very interesting book. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. Coming into this book I had relatively little knowledge of the advances in robotics and the programming for these robots. I had missed all the hype on this particular robot back in '05. I had seen and heard of some of the robots mentioned towards the end of the story that come from Korea, but I had no idea that the US had anything of this caliber. I do have to agree with the author that Dick would find that one of the first and...more
I don't really read non-fiction much, but it's pretty easy to forget this is non-fiction. The plot sounds like it should have come out of a sci-fi novel (probably one by PKD), the technology involved is amazingly futuristic, and it's written in an easy to follow narrative style. All the tech is decently explained; simple enough to understand without long-winded technobabble explanations. And for those not familiar with PKD or sci-fi in general, several summaries of his works and his life are spr...more
First off, let me say the idea of creating an android in the image of Philip K. Dick, with independently functioning AI software, no less, and with the blessing of his family, is so beyond cool it almost defies understanding. Second, the fact that this miracle of concept and technology went missing in late 2005 and has never been found is tragic beyond words, and is exactly the sort of ironic scenario that PKD would have written into one of his books and incorporated into an elaborate conspiracy...more
What starts of as the story of a PKD android ends up a rumination on Dick's work and what it means to be human. Some of it is quite good. On the other hand, the author seems confused at times as to what, exactly, the PKD android is. He refers, at times, to the Android's lifelike head as its "brain", when in fact it's nothing more than the output device for a series of programs working on multiple computers in the background. It is essentially an articulated doll's head. The actual "intelligence"...more
Turned out to be quite interesting. Part P. K. Dick biography, part science journal, part something else. Not really the story of the disappearance but instead a deeper story about robots and the people that create them.
I was very excited to read the true story of the creation of one of the first functional androids. The fact that it was modeled after Philip K. Dick, one of my favorite authors, is a definite plus.

This book was very well written, and also quite enlightening. I learned about some of the more recent developments in programming and robotics, and also the difficulties and required synergy to bring the two together. One does not consider all the difficulties that would be encountered in creating an...more
Kat Dornian
The story of the making of the android head is interesting and inspiring. The effort and ideas of the team are well-displayed and capture a snapshot of a momentous time in AI development (and a few people's lives). I find the telling of the story rather bland and to include far too many unnecessary, elementary and bland explanations (like how computer programming works) while completely missing other obvious coincidences that could be pointed out like so many others. Powering through the downfal...more
Tym Godek
My wife picked this up for me because she knows I like Dick. :)

It's a decent read. Pretty breezy, but engaging enough. I liked how the author kind of peppered and braided seemingly incidental details throughout that had a bigger (though ancillary) impact by the end (I'm thinking of David Byrne's multiple appearances/mentions). Or maybe that's a cheesey kind of gimmick. I dunno, I kinda liked it.
Undoubtedly there are more thorough books on robotics, and there are certainly better books on PKD, b...more
David F. Dufty has struck just the right mix of humor, biography and academic rigor to tell the strange, tragic tale of how an android replica of Philip K. Dick came to be and later lost its head. The ultimate villain in this story is the airline that lost the head. The layers of activity behind the realization of this idea are fascinating, bringing together an odd mix of AI, art and chasing down funding sources into an admirably linear tale. It is the lore of Philip K. Dick himself that gives t...more
Rob Cavenagh
I have a tendency to alternate non/fiction but this followed two novels in a series. As a fan of PKD and modern sci-fi, I was drawn to the premise of this book. What I found not only made me want to read more of his work, but also that of Clarke and Asimov. Dufty takes a relatively ordinary project and makes it dramatic at every turn with his writing style and no nonsense manner of reporting. This book will make you wonder which is more enticing - the level of PKD's insanity or the project to re...more
Frederick Gault
Someone built a robotic head of Philip K. Dick, I kid you not. They hooked it up to a computer with all his writings, interviews, etc. digitized and you could ask it questions! Now, if that's not weird enough, the head was lost by the airlines in shipment and is still out there somewhere. Add to that the fact that the Japanese grafted a similar head of Albert Einstein onto one of its walking robots and one can see immediately the importance of reading this bizarre true story.
Samuel Gutterman
I love that these events occurred and that once upon a time there was a talking PKD android in the world. The book, however, is not terribly well-written and there is just not enough drama to the story to make a compelling read. When I found myself reading about the team building the Dick living room and their efforts to comply with Chicago fire safety code I started skimming. Still, I'm glad the history is recorded and again, glad it happened in the first place.
Extremely interesting look at the limitations and capabilities of current(ish) robotics. Also discusses the burgeoning field of the emotional interaction between humans and machines. Does it increase the functionality of a machine if it is made to resemble humans or are barely indistinguishable androids merely works of art? Before this book, I had neither a background nor great interest in robotics or Philip K. Dick. Now my to-read list has expanded.
Love Philip K Dick's work, so had to read this book. Took me a long time to get through it; it was a little more technical than I needed and I was a little disappointed in the ending, and the way that everyone just seemed to give up: we built this great thing, and now it's gone missing... well, by the time we find it, it will probably be obsolete, let's go build something else.
Fascinating non-fiction book about the creation and loss of Philip K Dick's (Bladerunner) android head. Made me feel woefully inadequate as I have neither sculpting skills nor the ability to invent fake skin nor talent at writing AI learning algorithms necessary to create my own android. If you want to know about some of the real mad scientists hiding in the USA, read this.
Rae M.
I think after a year of attempted reads I can finally state: could not finish.

I don't know, it just wasn't as interesting as I thought it was going to be. I picked it up because I like Philip K. Dick, and I do like androids. But I guess I'm not that into android nonfiction.

It's not you, its me.

As much as I would have liked to say that I really enjoyed this book, it fell short for me. Too much about the history, technology, and programming involved in building an Android, not enough about the mystery of the missing head. I'm a geek, but apparently not enough of a geek....
Aug 19, 2013 Bianca marked it as to-read
I wanted to read this because of the title, but recently I realized I had heard this author speak, and seen his new robot in action. If the book is any reflection of his in-person storytelling and genius then it's probably a fun, and slightly technical, read.
Sean Kottke
A book-length treatment of a topic that might have been better served as a feature article for WIRED, this is nevertheless an accessible and entertaining account of the state of robotics and AI research conundra in the past decade.
Enjoyed this book. Even though another PDK android head was built, I can't help feeling that the loss of the first head equates to a death. It also makes me feel a bit sad that the android was "retired" way too soon after its incept date.
I learned some cool stuff about robots and the awesome nerds who build them. And not enough about Philip K. Dick. But I will say this: After reading this book, I have absolutely no fear of a robot invasion.
Ketan Shah
Aug 01, 2012 Ketan Shah added it
Shelves: non-fiction
The fascinating story of the construction and eventual disappearance of a Philip K Dick android. Anyone who enjoys PKD's work would probably find this stranger than fiction tale very entertaining.

Thoroughly enjoyed this. I'd not heard of the PKD Android project before. This book has fired my interest in thinking machines again, as well as the works of Phillip K. Dick.
Bro_Pair أعرف
Fun little book about some researchers in Memphis who made a Philip K. Dick android. An interesting piece of popular science about a field that will only grow in importance.
enjoyable and fast read. fascinating and ultimately, disappointing ending.
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David F. Dufty is a senior research officer at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Memphis at the time the android was being developed and worked closely with the team of scientists who created it. He completed a psychology degree with honors at the University of Newcastle and has a Ph.D. in psychology from Macquarie University. He lives in Canber...more
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La strana storia dell'androide Philip K. Dick (Fanucci Narrativa)

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