Fear The Automaton: Technology And The Loss Of Humanity In Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

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What are monsters? Who are monsters? Clawed brutes, winged terrors, and giant robots are examples that fill popular fiction. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick focuses on monsters that are not so easily identified. These monsters have human appearances but lack human feelings; they are defined and ruled by the technology around them, reduced to little more than cogs in the machine. The technology featured in Dick’s post-apocalyptic world is dichotomous and extrapolates from current trends in technology. Technology acts as a medium for connection between people, yet simultaneously isolates them. It is intended as a tool for empowerment, but is used instead for pacification. Through the topic of technology in Androids, Dick echoes bioethicist Leon Kass, who believes that the “technical conquest of his own nature would almost certainly leave mankind utterly enfeebled” (qtd. in Bostrom). In this paper, I will discuss how Philip K. Dick uses technology in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, to warn of the danger of such “androidization”, the instrumentation of humans and the loss of individual will and expression.
The reader is first introduced to the Penfield mood organ, a mood-altering device that highlights the prevalence of human objectification and the loss of genuine human emotion in Dick’s dystopian society. The characters are, for the most part, ignorant of this fact as they readily accept the technology into their lives. The novel begins as Rick Deckard is awakened by a “merry little surge of electricity piped by […] the mood organ beside his bed” (Dick 3). Rick is attached to the mood organ all night and from the outset of his day his behavior is artificial, created by a device. Like a switch, Rick is turned on like an android. Furthermore, Dick introduces the mood organ before the main character. In fact, in the first sentence of the novel, the mood organ is the subject acting upon the human, the object. In Androids, technology takes precedence over natural human processes. Examining Dick’s choice of words, we see that the “surge of electricity” is oddly described as “merry”. It describes the artificial mood entering Rick’s mind as he wakes, allowing him to feel “well-disposed toward the world”. His merriment is in direct...

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