Philip K. Dick was right: we are becoming androids



I think Dick may have written the story that inspired the movie. Read “The Father-Thing”, published two years before the movie was released.


I’ve got to admit, Horselover Fat was the last person I expected to bust out a ‘kids these days’ screed


People becoming robotic doesn’t have anything directly to do with technology or the “progress” of modern life. It is the very simple matter of masses of individuals being persuaded to not have deep, meaningful goals of their own. To ignore monolithic others such as states and companies and to decide from first principles what ones in life goals are. Without those goals, people are easily roped into doing things which only further the agenda of others - and if thy are neurotic enough they will save face by saying this was their idea all along. People seriously need to get over the survival anxiety that choosing their own course in life is too inconvenient to be bothered doing. And, even worse, repressing their insecurities by attacking those who try to overcome this.


You have a point, but I think you take individualism for granted. We are individuals, but we are also collective. I don’t think the fear of “becoming androids” is the same as the fear of losing individuality or becoming collectivized. In many ways we see collective identity as the thing that makes us most human: love for family, society, even humanity.

The fear of becoming androids is about losing agency. Dick isn’t just concerned that we’re being bamboozled into doing what someone else wants, he’s paranoid that doing what we want can’t change anything, because even our selves have been designed by the logic of inhuman systems. Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?


Eh, for the majority of human history, most people have had a primary life goal of surviving long enough to have more food booze and sex, and a secondary goal of having their children survive long enough to help them with their primary goal. It really doesn’t take much persuasion to keep people off the deep and meaningful bandwagon. Selective education and a healthy supply of sex food and booze, and its pretty much a done deal.

Dick seems like he was mentally ill and paranoid. Which is all the rage these days.

I agree here that “want” is the ultimate McGuffin. But my experience is that most (nominally) social frameworks tend to, as a path of least resistance, assume that all parties are blinded by their own biases and need some illusory structure to overcome this and provide a pretense for interaction. So, of course, such initiatives naturally do not withstand much rational scrutiny. As a child, I recognized this as a form of universal, mutually-imposed brainwashing. Not unlike information warfare. But that the party I realized was at most in risk of being brainwashed by was myself, so being able to rationally audit any bias, automatic or instinctive behaviors is of utmost necessity. I think that doing this might be the closest people can come to having “agency”.

I think that “the logic of inhuman systems” can help immensely, when it is employed to achieve self-control rather than attempts at control over others. Many people give up, citing the apparent impossibility of escaping human bias - but it is trivial to devise autonomous systems which can model human situations without the assumptions implicit in human bias. With some discipline, skill, and tools I find that people can self-program - or perhaps more accurately meta-program - their goals, personalities, and social schemas. But doing so affords no guarantees of stability or predictability, which can be quite important to those who follow a program of “survival at all costs”.

The world at large. This is what I have always done. If humans can be assumed to be motivated and blinded by their own biases, how could we possibly see beyond this? An obvious option is to be suspect of any “reality” which appears to have been devised by - and applies only to - humans. This is why I think it is crucial to strive towards objectivity, even if attaining objectivity is a fleeting, unattainable destination. The ultimate “reality check” is that the universe does not care what you want! Nor does the rest of your biosphere. For the observant person, I think this can be a reliable way out of the maze of instinct and ideology.

If reality beyond the human condition is unpopular, it then merely suggests how the social structures which condition humans tend to foster delusion.


The idea wasn’t new with Phil. A century ago one of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s primary points was that most of our thinking and actions are mechanical. I don’t think that we’re becoming more mechanical than we ever were - that’s not only part of being a living organism (breathing, digestion, walking) and part of human groups (religious dogmas, pressures to conform, repetitious work environments, consumer advertising). We’re not stuck that way, though we may have “fallen asleep” to the things that marvelled us as kids, and to the wondrous world we walk through each day.

Even revelations have their limits. As some Zen master or other put it after coming down from the mountains, he still has to carry firewood every day. Automation’s always been part of the human condition, but it’s increasingly less necessary as we free ourselves from drudgery. Re-awakening to our creative options and our mutual connections to one and all is to walk away from automation.


You’re right that there has been a lot of attention to Phil’s personal life. It’s much like the film and TV shows that harp on the faults of the 60s. It’s a lot easier to focus on that personal stuff than to face up to the mirror being held in our faces. Outsiders like Phil remind us that we have alternatives if we just stop caving.

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Who is “One more trustworthy than all the Buddhas and sages”?

I guess the point of both my comment and my snark was that some sacrificing of your will to the needs for the operation of society is a natural pull in everyone everywhere. How much do we do because we want to do it versus how much are we compelled to do by the organizations around us. Perhaps its a dilemma we find harder to resolve in large societies where many of the people helped by your actions are people you will never meet or care about.

I think dick was just paranoid enough to make for a compelling narrative about something we all feel.

That is to say, I think his stories speak to a relative constant in the human condition and its sort of silly and paranoid to see them as predictions that are coming true.

[quote=“RJMeelar, post:6, topic:53354”]
Dick seems like he was mentally ill and paranoid. Which is all the rage these days.
[/quote]And boy, did he distrust the ladies. If there’s one thing I can count on in a Philip K Dick story it’s about how love is just an illusion and how the protagonist’s love interest is actually working for the antagonist or only her own interests.

Interesting considerations, and it is a primary subject of consideration in many avenues of ‘far reaching’ fiction, be it fantasy or science fiction… but is the question really ‘what makes a human less alive’, and not more ‘what does it really mean to be alive’, ‘what is the true definition of living’.

Casting, then, some doubt on whether or not what people mistake as “being alive” is actually not alive at all? Even contrasted against such an odd thing as the concept of a “living machine”*.

(*Which is an older concept then people might consider it as being… though, of course, ‘older’ can often be relative of a concept when comparing one civilization to another, or one person to another. In much the same way as children might be raised, where the adult, while older, has run many of the same races already the child is to run, and come to many of the conclusions the child is yet to come from. So, while ‘older’, also, very much ‘newer’. An odd turn: in some eastern societies to claim “the original” is equivalent to the claim “new” in some western societies. As the two come increasingly together, the meanings tend to blur, where “the original” and “new” both can carry substantial weight as claims.)

Consider that such distrust could quite well be earned. Such things can leave decades-lasting painful marks on one’s soul.

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Considering that even Ellison let it go and wrote about something else that means anyone else can move on.

(sorry, double post)

Can you (or anyone else) point to some examples of this in Dick’s fiction? The only one I can think of is with Rachael in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but she has the total lack of empathy typical of androids in that story, and from what I remember she wasn’t overly perturbed by the discovery.

I recently realized that even if we decide religion is bunk, and we decide to look for a larger truth, the urge to seek that truth is still rooted in the same instinctive urge as the need for religion, and decades later we realize that the fortunate man is the one who has always worshiped a plaster idol or a lamppost without questions. Anyway, I think the machines will be more than equal to the task.

I think people don’t generally agree as to what either “truth” or “religion” might be. I’d say that truth tends to be more the domain of philosophy, although this can overlap with religion. With religion being essentially equal to ritual, which may or not have a philosophical basis to it.

This all might be somewhat relevant to Dick’s religious tendencies, which could be classified as Gnosticism. This kind of thought/practice generally has nothing to do with “worship”, but rather overcoming unthinking, unfeeling behaviors to strive to be as alive as possible at any given moment. Which resonates, as dphilby said with the outlook of Gurdjieff.

Some modern cognitive scientists have gone so far as to suggest that people are not particularly “sentient” - they just like to think that they are. The “self” is just a handy wrapper which ties your sensory impressions together, and helps them to jive with memories. Analyze the habits and they pass through one’s fingers like sand. Likewise with ideas, identities, memories, etc. In practice, this tends to be alarming for many people, so they put up a big edifice and choose to be deaf and blind to its contradictions and inconsistencies. Humans may not attain Truth with a capital T, but I think their lives tend to be rather different depending upon how accepting they are of how their minds work in the world, versus clinging to preconceived notions of self and surroundings. I suspect these can seen as poles which all people tend to oscillate between.


Well, the novel that the film was officially based on came out the same year as Dick’s story.