“what is it to be human?”
One important question is “what is it to be human?” What is Dick’s answer to this question? How are androids and humans contrasted in this novel, and to what purpose? Is his view of human nature inherently negative, positive, mixed, or ambiguous? Can you apply any theories or ideas about human nature found in any of our other texts in this class to any of the issues that you see raised in the novel?
From the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick defines humans as biological creatures who are able to show empathy and affection in the decisions they make. This is epitomized by their relationship to animals and their ability to pass the Voight-Kampff test which measures one’s phycological analysis and physiological reactions. Empathy and affections form the main premise of this test used to distinguish between humans and androids.
The novel contracts humans and androids in the following ways; first, their level of care for animals. Humans care about animals, while androids do not care about animals. Humans put a lot of time and attention in the care of animals (Dick, 12). Humans in the novel are horrified at the thought of any form of violence meted against the animals. On the other hand, androids care less about animals and the pain they feel. However, the main problem with this distinction is the lack of consensus on what an animal is. “if a spider is an animal, why isn’t an ant” (Dick, 194).
Secondly, humans and androids are also contrasted based on their levels of empathy. Human beings have the ability to feel for and with and the plight of others; this forms the central premise of the Voigt-Kampff test. Androids fail this test because of their lack of empathy. Machines have a flattening of affect (Dick 37). They have the ability to understand but not to feel the plight of others; thus, making empathy be used as a factor to distinguish between humans and androids.
The author’s view of humans is negative. In the novel, humans are more concerned about keeping their bloodline clean and determined to exterminate the androids. Humans feel they are superior and are the ones who deserve to not only live nut to also reproduce. This echoes the concepts of eugenics, which resulted in racism and the deaths of several people during the second world war.
In conclusion, the Dystopian novel delves on the question of identity as humans who kill the android later ask themselves if the androids truly deserve to die if the only distinction between the two species in empathy. As the distinction, between human and android begins to fade especially after the creation of androids capable of empathy, human begin to understand that their understanding of androids is underdeveloped and in is dire need of reconsideration(221)
Dick, Philip. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. 1sted. Garden City, NY: Doubleday(1968).