Book Reviwed: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Author: Philip K. Dick
Some background information-
Following much of the same basic outline of an ordinary science fiction, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep at first may not appeal to many non-science fiction fans. The story is set in the near future and talks about mechanical animals, people moving to mars, mood-dialer, laser and more. However upon further reading into the book, one will discover that the book actually has a lot to do with the postmodern world. Philip’s world should be seen as what will doom to happen to humans if they continue as they are: obsessing over materialistic good to elevate their social status. Unable to define wants and their greater need in life, they lose sight of the reality in life.
Consuming goods is like an addiction. If people do not have the ability to control it, it will slowly degrade the society’s value and principals. Set in 2021, Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep tells of a post-apocalyptic story in which the world has been completely altered by the World War terminus. Radiation descended all over the place which as a result, forced a large number of human to move toward mars. The remaining population on earth is expected to keep and take care of animals for life has become so scarce. Because not all of them could afford the expensive prices of these animals, the Rosen Corporation builds incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, brides, cats and sheep, so everyone could equally own one. Without a thought if these animals are even practical to them or not, these people blindly buys. Multinational company, represented by the Rosen Corporation, and advertisements dictate what people want and subsequently need. By creating those mechanical animals, the Rosen Corporation is instituting a false sense of need within every consumer, provoking them to buying the fake animals. When in fact they do not need those products, these people are encouraged to buy nonetheless. They are the initiating factors of humans buying needless products without reasoning in their brains.
Gradually, however, the problem appears to be no longer in which person or household does not own an animal, but who owns a better one. Each animal represent a different level of social status. Generally speaking, the real rare species are more expensive than those that are fake and mechanical. The robotic animals belong to the lower class, whereas people from a higher class own the real thing. Though a majority of the citizens during that time cannot afford a real animal, they still attempt to portray themselves as owning a higher-hierarchy mechanical animal. Essentially a mechanical animal on its outer appearance is the same as live animals, however in order to make sure that that their place in the society is acknowledged, they strive to get a genuine one than ones which operate in battery.
As unfortunate as Rick Deckard, the main character, is in the novel, he owns a mechanical sheep. When he sees that his neighbor owns a real horse which is about to give birth, he desperately begs for one. Upon to his neighbor discovery that his sheep is fake, Rick defends himself immediately by saying that it is only a replacement for the real one he had earlier possessed until its recent death. Clearly, he is ashamed by the fact he owns a fake animal. In his society, “owning and maintaining a fraud had a way of gradually demoralizing one. And yet from a social standpoint it has to be done, given the absence of the real article.” (Dick 9) Rick is willing to do everything for a bigger and less common animal such a horse. With a selfless motivation to trade off for a higher self-esteem, he is willing to kill androids which would earn him enough money for an animal he desire. $6000 is the amount that Rick has to pay for a better animal. Blindly driven by the society’s chase after fame and social acceptance, Rick is unable to separate his real needs from wants and thus defies his emphatic human nature to kill androids. If he were able to recognize what he is actually doing, he would not illogically spend $6000 to just show off an animal he owns.
Whether if owning a higher-hierarchy animal can honestly brings them true happiness or not, the people in the society feel like it must be done to make them feel important. All they want is to be more highly-regarded and respected when comparing themselves to others. And it is with this confidence in themselves that makes them aware of their own existence. Humans should not be too overly-obsessive regarding social status and not even to too quickly assume that a physical good would bring them fortune and fame, or least recognition from others. Instead, they should focus more on their real needs. To gain social acceptance is a want rather than a genuine need. During Rick’s pursuit of acceptance from the society, he loses sight of the more important things in his life- to be himself and care for the people closely involving in his life. Rather than spending more time with these people, he invests most of his energy performing cruel, meaningless acts such as killing androids and going around with the animal catalog in his hand asking how much people are willing to sale him their animal for. It is no wonder that he does not get along with his wife.
Personal interaction and care for each other human beings, an essential part of being a person, is losing its significance in the sea of materialistic good. When family and friends are those whom they should consider as their greatest source of need, it has become more important to them to conform to the world. With an ambiguous idea of where the line is between their real needs and wants, they blindly chase after social acceptance. As their lives become increasingly meaningless, they also naturally lose sight of what their top priorities in life are. Rather than piecing their own outlook of the world, outside forces dominantly influence their point of view so that they are no longer acting for themselves out of genuine purpose. The materialistic good that they value so much is preventing from their capability to empathize. It is shocking to know that some people buy things to conform to the society rather than to bring themselves true happiness. Because they are so hypercritical of what they own, they no longer act out of genuine purposes. Consumerism is degrading people’s value, conclusively.
Presenting a twisted view on how the future would be if we continue to be materialistic, through Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick did a brilliant job in connecting the futuristic world to the modern we are current living in. It teaches us to choose products and do wise pre-purchase decision. Seeking after social status should not be in first priority in life but rather there are more important things in life to pursue. We do not have to buy things that are impractical, which solely fulfills our need for high social esteem; admiring the product already does the good justice.
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Ballantine, 1996. Print.
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