BeeQuiet's Reviews > Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
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May 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

Set in a world plagued by radioactive fallout from a nuclear war of the not so distant past, we find out protagonist is one of a relatively small number of people remaining on Earth; the rest having fled to colonies on Mars and other relatively close planetary outposts. The incentive to many in leaving is receiving their own andy, or android, who will provide them with companionship whilst also serving as a servant. Rick Deckard is charged with 'retiring' androids who have made their way back to earth, having killed their previous owners. These androids have to be located, which is easier said than done given the increasingly complex nature of their workings, meaning they can often pass as human. What differentiates them is their inability to empathise. However not everything is as simple as it first appears to the bounty hunter Deckard.

At this time in the future, the people of Earth have become dependent on units in their houses which allow them to order specific moods by request. Social standing and acceptance is dependent on owning a real animal, as opposed to the electric versions sold to those not fortunate enough to afford the animals, which carry extremely high price tags due to their rarity. Empathy has become the defining aspect of humanity, including the ability to empathise with the animals they keep. They have the option of experiencing empathy with a huge number of people simply by linking up to a terminal, yet another sign of the almost robotic nature of humanity by this stage.

I found this book asked a lot of pertinent questions whilst retaining a brilliant, if dark sense of humour. What exactly is empathy? What is being human? And what will androids dream of, if they end up coming into existence in the manner suggested by this book?
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