Introduction: Life of Philip K. Dick……………………..……………….………Page 2
Abstract: Relationship between humans and machines…..……………….………Page 3
“The Minority Report”: First stage in the relationship………..………....……….Page 4
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”: Second stage in the relationship…Page 9
“The Electric Ant”: Final stage in the relationship……………….………….…...Page 14
The Relationship: Analysis of the relationship……….………….……………….Page 18
Humans and Computers – Modern Day: How the relationship exists today.…..Page 20
Final Thoughts: Conclusion…………………….……………...…….………...…Page 21
During Philip K. Dick’s lifetime he published 44 novels, 121 short stories, plus many other additional pieces of literature. Dick was a very talented writer, even though he dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley, after just two months1. He is not a household name like Michael Crichton, although he should be. He is recognized however by many Professors of American Literature.
“It is widely accepted by contemporary critics that his works are rare when compared to popular science fiction genre, because of their inexplicable tensions and eccentric usage of the classic science fiction leitmotifs such as cyborgs, androids, colonies, aliens, future worlds etc.2”
His works are science fiction, and usually will include a character that is non-human, or a robot. His science fiction also depicts a dystopian view of the future. Great innovations always seem to go bad and usually as a result of human, not computer error. This relationship between humans and computer is what I will be analyzing in this paper.
Part of the reason he never made it to such fame might have been a result of his colorful life. Dick suffered from heavy drug use, was married and divorced five times, and attempted suicide once. Many of his stories have been made into Hollywood films. These include the films, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, Imposter, Paycheck, Minority Report, and the upcoming film The Golden Man. In his works, he often tries to convey a message to us. What I have seen in the works that I have read, is a warning about the future. Machines and computers will be a great tool for humans, but beware, if computers are controlled by humans, then what happens when the humans make an error?
What is reality? With computers evolving like they are today what will be the difference between humans and computers? What will our relationship with computers be a hundred years from now? Are humans doomed to be defeated by a grand “evil” computer? These are some of the questions that Philip K. Dick has proposed and attempted to answer in many of his literary works. Three in particular, “The Minority Report”, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” and “The Electric Ant”, all seem to focus on the relationship between humans and computers. The three works are listed in chronological order, and as I will attempt to show in this paper, they were written in that order for a reason. I believe that Dick was writing about three different, yet progressive stages in the relationship of humans and computers.
The first stage is a separated relationship, where computers help humans but share no attachment. Similar to today, we use a computer to organize our work and type papers etc. In this stage, we, the humans, are in control of the computers, and have total control over what they can do. The Second stage is the ability for computers to connect with humans in some way. This step has already started today, with nanotechnology and mechanical prosthetics. In this stage humans still have control of the computers; however their control is getting to be limited. Limited in a way that humans can put the computer in its place to do work, but through the calculations that were programmed into it, the computer can make its own judgments. Lastly, the third stage is when the two are completely combined. There is no longer human control in this stage, and the computers are self sufficient, unless tampered with, by a human. This is where we will see the difference between humans and computers as expressed by Dick. Humans have a certain “inner drive” that pushes them to the limits, while computers seem to be more stable, and less likely to destroy themselves. Lets us take a closer look at each story and through analysis see the relationships as Philip K. Dick wanted to show us.
“The Minority Report”3 The first story we will analyze in the relationship between humans and computers is “The Minority Report”. It expresses a relationship where computers have no control, and can only assist humans. The story was written in 19564, and after reading it you can see that this story has Hollywood written all over it, which is why in 2002 it became a blockbuster film.
The story opens by introducing the main character, John Anderton the chief of police of New York some time in the future. He is in charge of a very particular division called the Pre-Crime Division. Pre-Crime is just what it sounds like, predictions of crimes. Sometime in the future, scientists gave birth to a system of computers and gifted “idiots”. These “idiots” as they called them were humans that were not really fully functional but they did however have one specialty, being psychic. There are three of these “idiots”, and they are known to the pre-crime division as pre-cogs, as in pre-cognition. Since the implementation of pre-crime, New York had become 99.8% crime free, a figure which has the country debating whether pre-crime should become the standard, nationwide.
The process of pre-crime works as follows. The three pre-cogs constantly have visions about the future. Their visions are sent to a computer system which then does an analysis of the visions.
In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling. Every incoherent utterance, every random syllable, was analyzed, compared, reassembled in the form of visual symbols, transcribed on conventional punch cards, and ejected into various coded slots. All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs, held in one rigid position by metal hands, and bundles of wiring, clamps. Their physical needs were taken care of automatically. They had no spiritual needs. Vegetable-like, they muttered and dozed and existed. Their minds were dull, confused, lost in shadows.5
The computers decide which visions are to be accepted as real and which are just rubbish thoughts. The computers also decide what to do when not all the pre-cogs see the same vision. The computers create the most probable outcome or the “majority report”. Now with the creation of a majority report, there must also be the less likely possibility or the “minority report”. The pre-crime division goes by the majority report and seeks out the would-be murderers then arrests and sentences them for crimes they never actually committed.
As insurance that everything goes smoothly, the army checks over all the records from the computer each day. Everything sounds great on paper, but what would you do if your name popped up as a potential murderer, and especially if it said you were to murder someone whom you didn’t even know nor have any intention of doing any harm to? This is the potential flaw of the system, incriminating people for things they never did. Also, if they did know the crimes the pre-cogs saw, maybe they wouldn’t commit them.
John Anderton was getting ready to retire from the New York Police Department, as well as from his beloved pre-crime project which he molded to what it became. He noticed a name coming from the computer, only to see his name being printed out from the computer for a murder he was to commit in one week. He had exactly twenty four hours until the army saw this report too, and would no doubt come after him. The story then twists back and forth telling us about conspiracies first thought to be internal with the police department but then ultimately showed that the army is behind all of it trying to get back some power after the last war.
It also is important to note that the name of the victim is Leopold Kaplan, who just happens to be in the army and is one of the main advocates against pre-crime. Kaplan had manipulated the system to show that once a potential criminal such as Anderton know they are supposed to commit a crime they would refrain from doing it. Kaplan hoped that by Anderton not killing him he could demonstrate that pre-crime doesn’t work and that the Army should indeed take control of law enforcement again.
“Once I say it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t invent it. Very obviously, I’m going to have to fulfill the publicized report. I’m going to have to kill Kaplan. That’s the only way we can keep them from discrediting us.6” Anderton was now stuck. He either would have to kill Kaplan and let pre-crime survive, or refrain from killing Kaplan and watch his life’s work wither away. He decides after discussions with his successor to go ahead and kill Kaplan. After that, the new chief of police allows him to leave Earth for another planet as punishment, and the story ends.
I picked this story to be first in this paper, because I think it shows an elementary relationship between computers and humans. The humans involved are the three pre-cogs of course, as well as the rest of the population of New York including Anderton. Humans having put pre-crime into law, allowed a computer system to narrow down the probability of a physic thought, and based on that, to take an action. There is a human, Anderton, who overseas the system, and without him there would be no pre-crime system. Thus there is no computer control; they simply can calculate the most probable truth from the pre-cogs.
In this story Dick shows us the fault of humans, we have feelings. Computers do not have feelings, but rather just calculate what to do. Anderton, after seeing his name come out of the pre-crime system, rather than turn himself in, feels the need to run away. A computer would report itself, as it would have been programmed to do. This is not a negative relationship like as will see in later stories, but rather, here, Dick shows a positive relationship. A relationship where computers have a role similar to present day, where computers do nothing more than calculations and can “assist” humans with whatever they are programmed to do. In addition, there are no “bad” computers in this story. After all, it was not the computer that caused this commotion, but rather a human conspiracy.
In “The Minority Report”, Dick’s earliest work of the three being analyzed, he is painting the picture of the future. He is asking us if humans can live by the same guidelines as computers. Computers live off of commands, numbers, and calculations. Computers do not have feelings, nor can they be rational. Dick is suggesting to the reader that maybe we can’t live our lives based on probabilities and calculations. Humans are unpredictable, no matter what a psychic or computer may say. We can’t have computers dictating what a human can or can’t do, or saying what he will probably do. Humans have emotions, and some humans still posses some sort of values.
“..Accused of crimes not of crimes they have committed, but of crimes they will commit. It is asserted that these men, if allowed to remain free, will at some future time commit felonies. But there can be no valid knowledge about the future. As soon as precognitive information is obtained, it cancels itself out. The assertion that this man will commit a future crime is paradoxical. The very act of possessing this data renders it spurious.7”
Maybe, if the general population of New York and not just Anderton would be privy to the information provided by the pre-cogs, a would-be murderer would realize that his “probable” action has consequences attached to it, and refrain from doing it. This would be the problem with a real pre-crime system. Humans, knowing information about the future, would most probably not commit a murder if they knew they would be caught. A computer however, can’t decide on its own if a consequence is enough to refrain from an action. A computer must act on what it is programmed to do, and what it calculates is the best way to carry out its command. Humans on the other hand are not “programmed” and can decide not to do something even though they feel compelled to do so.
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”8
In the next step of the relationship between humans and computers, computers start to take a more hands on role. No longer do computers just assist humans, but rather now computers can manipulate things that the humans can do. This idea is expressed in Dick’s works take us to the story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”. This story was written in 1966, and it too has since become a Hollywood film called “Total Recall”, starring the present Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger9.
Like “The Minority Report”, this story too takes place in the future. The main character is a man named Douglas Quail. Quail is plagued by reoccurring dreams of going to Mars. He knows however, that only government agents are allowed to travel to Mars, and every morning his wife Kristen reminds him of this. One day on his way to work a street sign catches his attention, it says “Rekal, Incorporated”. Rekal, Inc. was a company that designed a computer system that could see into your mind and in particular your dreams. The system could manipulate your mind to create or erase memories for you on demand. Sounds scary, but this company only used it for voluntary pleasure. For example, the next time you say to yourself “Oh I should have done that when I had the chance”, now you go to Rekal, Inc. and leave with memories of doing just that. Rekal, Inc. would also send actual evidence to your house so you can show everyone you were there. This evidence would be a postcard or some pictures showing you doing what you wanted to dream about. And of course all memory of ever going to Rekal, Inc. would be erased to complete the effect.
One dream they specialize in which is why Quail couldn’t stop looking at their sign, is they can “help” people believe that they traveled to Mars. So he decided to check it out. Once inside he is directed to the manager, Mr. McClane, who happens to be a Martian himself. After explaining to Quail how the process works, he tells him they will put a memory of him being a secret government spy traveling to Mars for a covert mission.
“You get tangible proof of your trip,” McClane disagreed emphatically. “All the proof you’ll need. Here; I’ll show you”. He dug within a drawer of his impressive desk. “Ticket stub.” Reaching into a manila folder, he produced a small square of embossed cardboard. “It proves you went-and returned. Postcards.” He laid out four franked picture 3-D full-color postcards in a neatly arranged row on the desk for Quail to see. “Film. Shots you took of local sights on Mars with a rented moving camera.” To Quail he displayed those, too. “Plus the names of people you met, two hundred poscreds’ worth of souvenirs, which will arrive-from Mars-within the following month. And passport, certificates listing shots you received. And more.” He glanced up keenly at Quail. “You’ll know you went, all right,” he said.10
Quail decides to go ahead with it, hoping this would finally quench his desire to travel to Mars. During the beginning stages of the memory implantation Quail starts talking during his sedation. This would be considered normal, except he was talking about his trip to Mars as a government agent and none of the actual memory implantation had even started yet.
Alarmed by this discovery, McClane quickly aborts the procedure and gives Quail half his money back. Quail then wakes up in a cab on his way home. After getting a grip of his surroundings he felt a receipt in his pocket and read that he had half of his money returned from Rekal, Incorporated. He asked the robotic cab driver to look up the address for Rekal Inc. and then asks him to take him there. Once there he remembered what he did there earlier and demanded his money back saying they were such a scam that they didn’t even give him his artifacts as they had promised. McClane gave him his money back, but then warned Quail not to mention anything about his trip to Mars.
Back at home he went through his things and finds specimens he brought back from Mars, it is then he realizes that he did go to Mars, yet someone had a memory put in his mind saying he didn’t go to Mars, however he still didn’t know for sure which memory was true, going to Mars or not going. When he explains this to his wife she suddenly leaves him saying he is crazy. It is then he sees two men standing behind him, government officials carrying UN issued weapons. They tell him they are at his house to get rid of him because he remembers his trip to Mars, and that they have been tracking him through a device they implanted in his head that can read his thoughts. Quail uses this to his advantage and starts thinking things that he wants them to hear and is able to convince them to allow him to try and have his memory erased again as opposed to being killed.
They all headed back to Rekal, Inc. to have Quails memory erased once again. Like the previous time Quail starts talking during his sedation, and still says he remembers going to Mars, but when the agents move to kill him he tells them what he did on Mars. The government had Quail murder someone on Mars. On Mars the Martians gave him a special “invisible rod” which he used to kill his target. In addition, the Martians made a treaty with Quail that as long as he was alive they wouldn’t destroy Earth. So the story ends off with Quail remembering everything and the government unable to kill him, because if they did the world would face annihilation.
This story must be Dick’s way of expressing his own life. Dick’s heavy use of drugs, LSD in particular, left him unsure of what true reality was, and what was just dreams or implanted memories resulting from the drugs. Dick is quoted when explaining what he was going through in his life.
The majority of these stories were written when my life was simpler and made sense. I could tell the difference between the real world and the world I wrote about. The stories in this collection are attempts at reception--at listening to voices from another place, very far off, sounds quite faint but important. They only come late at night, when the background din and gabble of our world have faded out. Then, faintly, I hear voices from another star. Of course, I don't usually tell people this when they ask, 'Say, where do you get your ideas?' I just say I don't know. It's safer.11
Here Dick makes direct reference to his “visions”, and how they became his stories. In fact in 1974, Dick began writing the “Exegesis” to explain the “mystical experiences” he was experiencing12. Based on the events that take place in this story he appears to be saying that true reality unaltered by outside substances is the best route to take. If Quail would have continued living his “normal” life, his life would not have been in danger. By his thirst to travel to Mars, he is forced to use a computer system to manipulate reality. He knew he wasn’t actually going to Mars, but like a drug user, he just wanted to escape reality. But like Dick found out, reality is usually better than an altered vision of it.
The story however, also relates to the topic at hand, the relationship between humans and computers. “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” has two examples of this relationship. First, between Quail and Rekal Inc.’s computers, and second, the bug implanted in Quail’s head by the government agents. However, the two relationships are actually opposites. With Rekal Inc., Quail had nothing but negative events happening to him as a result of what transpired there. It changes his life forever, and almost ends it prematurely. His relationship with the bug however should have been negative, but he instead uses it for the positive. The bug was used to find him by monitoring his thoughts. However he is able to turn it around and use it to threaten the agents listening in. By seeing his thoughts they know he will kill them, in addition he can manipulate them by thinking he will do one thing but then do something else and catch them off guard.
These relationships represent the second step in the relationship between humans and computers. In “The Minority Report” the computers would simply provide information to humans and what do to with the information is left ultimately in human control. Here in “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, Dick’s computers are starting to take a more progressive role in the decision making process. Humans make the ultimate choice, but once they do, the computers alter their brains.
“Is an extra-factual memory that convincing?” Quail asked. “More than the real thing, sir. Had you really gone to Mars as an Interplan agent, you would by now have forgotten a great deal; our analysis of true-mem systems-authentic recollections of major events in a person’s life-show that a variety of details are very quickly lost to the person. Forever. Part of the package we offer you is such a deep implantation of recall that nothing is forgotten….13”
No longer do the humans have full control, and no longer are the computers simply “assisting” humans. Granted, in this story a human character still had to make the decision to go to Rekal, Inc. and have the computers manipulate his thoughts, and government agents had to decide to put a bug in the characters head. However, once the initial decision to have computers involved is made, the computers start to seep into the humans, binding to them through their thoughts. They are still two separate entities though, one human and one computer, yet the two are starting to morph together.
“The Electric Ant”14 The third and final story to be examined also shows the third and final relationship we will look at in Dick’s literature. This relationship is no longer one assisting another, and no longer computers seeping into just human thoughts, rather now we see the last stage, a human-computer combination. “The Electric Ant” was written in 196915, and is thought by many to be Dick’s most influential story.
“..The Electric Ant” is the most powerful and important story Dick wrote, and perhaps the most frightening. It is quintessential Dick, the probing search into self of a brilliant man whose only constant companions over fifty-two years of his life were fear and anxiety.16
It also marked the end of a decade when he had written eighteen novels and twenty short stories.
Dick introduces us to a character named Garson Poole, who was just involved in some sort of accident, and we meet him waking up in his hospital bed. He knows nothing except that he was involved in an accident and is missing his arm. When the doctors pay him a visit, he nervously asks them if all he will need is an arm graft to replace his missing arm. The answer he gets was totally unexpected; they told him they can’t treat “his kind” in this hospital because he is an “electric ant”. An electric ant is an organic robot, meaning a robot with human characteristics. This is described best by Poole’s description of the robotic arm he gets to replace his missing arm.
It proved fascinating, the hand; he examined it for a long time before he let the technicians install it. On the surface it appeared organic-in fact on the surface, it was. Natural skin covered natural flesh, and true blood filled the veins and capillaries. But, beneath that, wires and circuits, miniaturized components, gleamed…looking deep into the wrist he saw surge gates, motors, multi-stage valves, all very small. Intricate.17
He spent time thinking, and realizes that the company he controls must not be his after all, for if he is a robot then someone had to have put him there.
After Poole arrived home, he was intent on exploring his new found body. By tapping into the central computer he finds that the mechanism that controls him is inside his abdomen. He opened his abdomen to find a tape mechanism with a spool of tape in the process of being read. After much consideration about it, he discovers that the tape is feeding information to his brain, specifically information about his “reality”. He called his secretary, Sarah, from work to come watch, and make sure nothing happened to him. After she arrives he decides to tamper with the tape and see what happens. First he starts small and punches a hole in it, a couple of minutes later he starts seeing colors and spots all over the room. Exhilarated by this he decides to be a little more risky. He smeared out a small section of the tape that should last about 30 minutes. With Sara standing by, he put the tape back in and found that certain parts of his surroundings disappeared. It appeared that everything was painted over each other, and now some of the painted parts were missing.
His experimenting now went into its final stage. He wanted to be able to feel everything at once. The human brain could not be able to handle something like that, but he was not human, so he set out to feel and experience every possible experience at one time, and thus be the smartest person alive. He sat there in his apartment with Sarah and at first nothing seemed to happen, but then it started.
He saw apples, and cobblestones and zebras. He felt warmth, the silky texture of cloth; he felt the ocean lapping at him and a great wind, from the north, plucking at him as if to lead him somewhere. Sarah was all around him, so was Danceman. New York glowed in the night, and the squibs about him scuttled and bounced through night skies and daytime and flooding and drought. Butter relaxed into liquid on his tongue, and at the same time hideous odors and tastes assailed him: the bitter presence of poisons and lemons and blades of summer grass. He drowned; he fell; he lay in the arms of a woman in a vast white bed which at the same time dinned shrilly in his ear; the warning noise of a defective elevator in one of the ancient, ruined downtown hotels. I am living, I have lived, I will never live, he said to himself, and with his thoughts came every word, every sound; insects squeaked and raced, and he half sank into a complex body of homeostatic machinery located somewhere in Tri-Plan’s labs.18
He tried to say his last words but it was too late. He overloaded, and “died”. Soon after, Sarah looked at her hands and noticed she could see through them. Then everything started to disappear and when the morning wind came in it blew her to nothingness.
In my opinion, Dick is attempting to write a story within a story in “The Electric Ant”. I believe he once again is trying to describe his life through the story. The quote above describing Poole’s vision when he experiences “everything” is again referring to Dick’s drug use. He is describing his own vision when using his drugs. Experiencing some type of euphoria, while at the same time realizing the bitterness that the drugs are causing him. Dick also wanted to feel “reality” no matter what the cost, no matter the amount of drugs he needed, and even if it lasted only a short while like Poole. I also believe that the character Sarah is meant to be Dick’s twin sister Jane who died a year after the two were born. Dick always expressed a connection with her, and such shows that when he (Poole) dies, she (Sarah) in turn also dies with him.
“The Electric Ant,” represents the maximum relationship between humans and computers. Dick has moved far beyond just computer suggestions, or thought manipulations, but now has combined a computer and a human. Garson Poole is described physically as human with flesh and skin and could feel some sort of pain. Yet, underneath it all, he is made of mechanisms and tape systems. These mechanisms work so well that Poole doesn’t even know that he is an android*, and until the accident truly believes that he is a human like his co-workers. Emotionally, he acted like a computer, which is why the real owners of Tri-Plan electronics put him in charge. They knew he would make decisions based on calculations that are best for the company. He wouldn’t feel guilty firing an employee, or to make a rash business choice for the company.
* Android = A robot masquerading as a human.
On the flip side however, he seems to show some human emotional characteristics as well. Computers are programmed as to what they can and cannot do. One concept that is usually programmed into computers is the inability to destroy itself. Only humans exhibit the idea of committing suicide, whether through the use of drugs like Dick, or any other means.
“Would we lie?” one of the technicians asked wearily. “Why not?” Poole said. “Here I have the opportunity to experience everything. Simultaneously. To know the universe and its entirety, to be momentarily in contact with all reality. Something that no human can do. A symphonic score entering my brain outside of time, all notes, all instruments sounding at once. And all symphonies. “Do you see?”19
Poole was warned that by continuing to tamper with his inner mechanism he would destroy himself, but yet he showed the human inside of him, the greed that we humans have. He wanted to feel everything, and be able to do what no one else could have done. No computer would be able to think like this, with the possibility of destruction. With the human greed and the drive, came his demise, but not before he experienced his dream. Perhaps the same could have been said for Dick and his life.
After reading these three amazing and powerful stories by Dick, we have a good picture of the relationship between humans and computers. We have seen three types of this relationship, good relationships and poor ones. In all the relationships we distinctly see the nature of humans and of computers. Complete opposites of each other, computers are only capable of doing what they are programmed to do, while humans have no restrictions other than the laws of nature. We also saw the frightening combination of a human and a computer. The limits for each disappear and what’s left is a computers' ability and a humans’ will. Dick argues that this ultimate relationship would lead to self destruction rather than tranquility.
One other point to analyze is that in all three stories there was always a human acting behind the computers. In each story, it was always the human errors and faults that in turn made the computers look like “evil” objects. In “The Minority Report” a human conspiracy is what drives the computer system to show John Anderton as a criminal, and ultimately he does exactly what the computers had tried to prevent. In “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, it is the government that has used a seemingly harmless system to erase and manipulate Quail’s memory for their own benefit. Rekal Inc.’s system worked so perfectly that it couldn’t override something it had already done to that mind. And lastly, in “The Electric Ant” the computer in Poole worked perfectly. It limited the amount of physical pain he could feel. It created the illusion of all the natural surroundings around him. It was not until the human part of him forced his will to tinker with the computer and ultimately caused it to overload.
From all this it seems Dick is trying to express that the relationship between humans and computers is an unbalanced one. Computers are perfect at what they do. They do exactly what they are told to. They don’t ask questions, and they don’t cause problems. Humans on the other hand usually don’t do what they are supposed to. They always ask questions, and they usually will cause some sort of problem. By allowing a human to be in control of a computer, it is an invitation for disaster. With the drive of a human, and the ability of a computer at his/her disposal the opportunities are endless for ways to mess up.
Humans and Computers – Modern Day
Not much of Dick’s prophecy has come true. In modern times, computers are used to create horrible weapons, viruses, and other destructive acts. Yet, computers have opened new doors for us humans that we never before thought were possible in the fields of medicine and technology. In this section let’s take a look at the modern-day relationship between humans and computers.
A survey showed that last year 90% of people ages 5-17 use a computer20. The computer has made the typewriter, fax machine, copy machine, and walkmans all obsolete. Computers are taking jobs from humans, simply because they are more efficient and require much less pay, and commit fewer errors. Humans today can shop and do many other things with such ease through computers. Tasks can be so much easier that humans almost can’t understand how they lived without computers before.
In the field of medicine, computers have made breakthroughs and make diagnosing illnesses much easier. With new discoveries in nanotechnology we are performing surgeries at the cellular and molecular level. Nanostructures will lead to a market of $200 billion dollars a year21. Today we already have electrodes being implanted into a patients’ brain to help control different nervous system activities. Humans with heart conditions have a computer called a pace-maker put into their bodies’ to assist their hearts. So while Dick may have overplayed the negative effects of the human – computer relationship, he did paint a pretty good idea of what we should have expected to see in the future. And as he wrote, we have computers today that simply assist humans in their decision making, as seen with the average business today. We also have computer programs which can monitor human emotions, and mental abilities. And lastly we have technology fusing computers and humans together, such as stated above (electrodes, pace-makers).
After having analyzed the three literary works, and their examples of relationships between humans and computers, can we now answer our original questions? What is reality? What is the difference between humans and computers? Will we be conquered by some “evil” computer? I think the answer to all is one and the same. Reality is being human, being an individual, not a number. Garson Poole explains this best.
Because, he thought, if I control that, I control reality. At least so far as I’m concerned. My subjective reality…but that’s all there is. Objective reality is a synthetic construct, dealing with a hypothetical universalization of a multitude of subjective realities.22 Reality is being able to refrain from taking actions against someone even if you feel as if you must. Reality is having memories of things you did of your own free will, good or bad. Reality is living in the world as it is, not needing an imaginary picture of what it is. The difference between humans and computers is that computers need humans to survive. They need to be programmed, and need to have tasks to function. No computer will be able to conquer humans, who can be free thinkers. Unless of course, a computer would be programmed to have the ability to free think like “The Electric Ant”. In that case humans and computers wouldn’t have too many differences. However, computers will always need a human to perform that original programming. Whereas humans need nothing but their minds, with that individualism anything is within their reach.
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Dick, Philip K. Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick. Pantheon Books, New York, 2002 (Pg. 395).