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

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
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Jan 25, 10

Read in January, 2010

The setting is around 2020, after the World War, when most of the humans have emigrated to Mars. The humans who remain on earth face the dust, a nuclear fallout that renders men sterile, necessitating that they wear lead codpieces. To entice humans to emigrate, the government promises them servant androids who can fulfill their every need. The latest model of android, the Nexus-6, is almost indistinguishable from a human being. Only an empathy test, administered by a trained police bounty hunter, can identify androids...and once an escaped android is identified it must be retired.

Richard Deckard just learned the department's senior bounty hunter has been picked off by a Nexus-6. He now must try the impossible: retire 6 Nexus-6 in a 24 hour period. Not only are the androids dangerous, but they bring a bounty of $1000 each, and Rick needs the money. He wants to buy a real animal to replace his electronic sheep.

I enjoyed this book, one of the best "idea books" I have ever read. The future contains "Penfield Mood Organs", where it is possible to "dial a mood" such as 888: the desire to watch TV, no matter what is on it.
I think it was included in the list for its exploration of what it means to be human, what common experience binds humans? What creates a loyalty among a group of people, or an empathy? The androids are so sophisticated and realistic that some humans have had relationships with them. Created for a life of bondage, the latest androids are conscious of lacking empathy, in the form of an inability to participate in organized religion (called Mercerism). The empathy test Deckard administers measures the individual's physiological response to a series of scenarios, all involving a percieved cruelty to life (example: you go to cabin and there is a mounted deer head). After the World War life is so scarce and precious that all humans would be appalled by any destruction of life, for any reason. Androids cannot be made to simulate this empathy, this common experience that links all humans. Obviously, such a test poses risks, especially since it is known that certain illnesses can cause a lack of empathy, and therefore cause the subject to fail the test and be "retired".
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