This may be kind of random since we’re done with class and we’ve been done with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for quite a while but I’ll share a few things I’ve been thinking about. A few ideas spawned for me after reading Donna Haraway’s The Cyborg Manifesto. I love when she says:
The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers after all, are inessential (Haraway-10).
This got me thinking about the androids from Do Androids Dream? and how exactly they were birthed into society and what that means going forward. I think it be very closely likened to the birth of the cyborg that Haraway describes, with militarism and capitalism acting as parents.
In connection with this a weapon of war, the Synthetic Freedom Fighter, had been modified; able to function on an alien world, the humanoid robot – strictly speaking, the organic android – had become the mobile donkey engine of the colonization program. Under U.N. law each emigrant automatically received possession of an android subtype of his choice, and, by 2019, the variety of subtypes passed all understanding, in the manner of American automobiles of the 1960s (Dick-16).
This quotation offers a couple of insights into this theory. First off, it’s referred to as “a weapon of war.” This makes it pretty obvious that its original function was military related. It was only “modified” later on to help progress the colonization program. I’d say this means we can call militarism the father of the android. And what about its mother? The first link to capitalism is provided by the comparison between the production of the androids to the production of the “American automobiles of the 1960s.” Capitalism’s role in the birth of the android is also noticeable in the words of Eldon Rosen.
‘We produced what the colonists wanted,’ Eldon Rosen said. ‘We followed the time-honored principle underlying every commercial venture. If our firm hadn’t made these progressively more human types, other firms in the field would have’ (Dick-54).
Eldon alludes to the basic structures of capitalism that have led to the current form of android being produced. So if we do take militarism and capitalism to be the mother and father of the android, where does that leave us? Well I’m not sure. But if I keep rolling with Haraway it seems that the android may be quite unfaithful to its origins. What does that mean in this case? Well my imagination starts to get a little wild here and I start thinking about the downfall of classic American capitalism at the hands of the organic android. The human and the android are already incredibly similar, making it nearly impossible to tell them apart (only through the bone marrow). So what happens as the androids keep getting more sophisticated, eventually reaching the point at which you really can’t tell them apart from people at all? What happens when the real and the artificial merge and become one giant cluster?
Since the 1800s the economy has relied on machines to produce commodities quickly and cheaply. But what will happen when the machines that produce these commodities begin to demand wages? What happens when various assembly lines call an assembly for themselves, form a union, and go on strike? It will be the end of cheap production. The competition between companies that was previously characterized chiefly by which company had the better technology will be over when machines no longer constitute a form of labor that is cheaper to employ than a human work force.
Ya I know. Just food for thought.
People are already becoming more machine like on their own. Even if we give no though to machines becoming more “real” we still have to keep in mind the fact that people are becoming more “artificial.” We get implants and operations that render us in some cases quite bionic (like that one dude that has a mechanical heart: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/man-s-heart-removed-and-replaced-241430.aspx ).
So anyways I’ll just leave you with this, a few words from PKD himself:
Someday a human being, named perhaps Fred White, may shoot a robot named Pete Something-or-other, which has come out of a General Electric factory, and to his surprise see it weep and bleed. And the dying robot may shoot back and, to its surprise, see a wisp of gray smoke arise from the electric pump that it supposed was Mr. White’s beating heart. It would be rather a great moment of truth for both of them.
(from his 1972 speech entitled The Android and the Human)