In class, we’ve discussed how artificial intelligence is getting increasingly better at solving Turing tests, while human beings, who are supposed to excel at the tests, are actually getting worse at them.
In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? there is a similar phenomenon going on amongst the androids and humans. Androids, especially the “special” and socially-exiled John R. Isidore, aim to prove that they can become more like humans. In Chapter 6, Isidore brings a cube of margarine to his new neighbor’s door, evidently supposing that this is what humans did before the war. Then, Isidore is baffled by Rachael when he finds out that she does not yet own an empathy box. While the creatures left on Earth suppose that empathy — and bringing “dubious” gifts to neighbors — is the definitive attribute of humanity, androids and “specials” use robotic and somewhat clunky, un-human means to mimic humanity.
The humans left on earth are not fully “human” either though. In order to survive on the war-ravaged planet, humans rely on technological developments to live a “human” life. Obviously, the humans in this story have an altered development of what is “human” compared to us. It seems that because of the mania about androids escaping to earth, humans are on extra alert for non-human behavior.
But even the characters that we know to be human are not on this “human” level that androids and specials are trying to live up to. From the very beginning of the novel, we see Rick and Iran with their mood organs and can’t help but think about how absurdly unnatural those are. Are the human characters in this novel even truly human? The irony here is that the characters in the novel are constantly trying to prove that they are human, or like human, by utilizing robotic means of living. Is being human something different from being natural?