طارق (Tarek)'s Reviews > Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
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really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi, utopia-dystopia

I was surprised by how postmodern the book was. How towards the end the reality and hallucinations and religious experiences become so muddled together that you can't tell what's really happening anymore.

I feel that this is very simply an enormous indictment of capitalism, consumer culture, and conspicuous consumption - an overt criticism of American culture. Technology and capitalism destroy everything.

This is my attempt to piece the themes together, and may contain spoilers:

What is real? I feel that Dick is saying that there is no difference ultimately between humans and androids. The androids clip the feet of the spider, but humans destroyed the world and all animals, and now seek to own the remaining surviving animals as commodified goods.

Everything in the world is upside down. Androids are artificial pieces of technology but humans rely on mood organs to feel emotions and empathy boxes to experience religion, and fake animals to express that empathy and love of nature. The most important human characteristic according to the society, that differentiates them from the machines, is empathy. But they need technology - an empathy box and electric animals to express it. I believe this explains why the sudden falling in love scene that so many reviewers have complained about, is kept so short in comparison to the goat purchase. The goat purchase is an act of consumerism and an elevation in social status, two extremely important aspects of that American culture, while feeling an emotional connection with someone is something instantly attainable by dialing in your mood organ. Thus any emotion, no matter how profound or powerful, is as far away as ordering a pizza. It becomes trivialized and unimportant in the society, just another consumable good. So technology and capitalism ruin human emotions and nature. When an animal is found it is caged. Everyone professes to love nature, and if you love it you must own it. The laws of capitalism, supply and demand, mean that new technologies are invented to give humans easy access to emotions, and the low supply of animals produces a high demand for its consumption as a good.

Even in the midst of a religious experience in the end, Deckard thinks instantly about the reward and fame he would receive from his find. And after retiring 3 androids, he instantly goes to buy his goat without any hesitation. He goes for the fix that the mood organ can't give him: owning a piece of genuine nature.

It seems that Isidore in the end is the most human out of all of them. The society that believes in empathy as a religious tenet shows none to the chickenheads or to one another (even Deckard and his wife, and the great Hannibal Sloat), and the only one who is genuinely disturbed about the deaths of the androids is Isidore. With his simple non-consumerist ideals, he becomes the hero of the story, and not Deckard. He represents the exact opposite of the androids: unintelligence to their high IQs, but empathy to their lack of it. As if Dick is trying to say that the smarter we become, the more machine-like, the more reliant on machines, and the less in tune with nature and our emotions.

"For Mercer everything is easy, he thought, because Mercer accepts everything. Nothing is alien to him. But what I've done, he thought; that's become alien to me. In fact everything about me has become unnatural; I've become an unnatural self."

It seems that in the end, Deckard has some sort of epiphany about himself and society. I think this is why he isn't troubled by the discovery that the toad is electric. He doesn't care anymore. Nor does he want to continue his job as a murderer, or use the mood organ when offerred to him.

This is what I took from the book, but I'd be interested if others also saw it as primarily a critique of consumer society.
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Quotes طارق (Tarek) Liked

Philip K. Dick
“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


Reading Progress

October 1, 2017 – Started Reading
October 4, 2017 – Shelved
October 4, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
October 4, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 6, 2017 – Shelved as: sci-fi
October 6, 2017 – Shelved as: utopia-dystopia

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