Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep Analysis

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Is humanity defined by its physical characteristics, its social tendencies—the ability to create language and record history, the ability to change and adapt itself and its environment— or something else entirely? In the post-apocalyptic world that Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, describes, androids are physically indistinguishable from humans. Dick, and his protagonists Decker and Isidore, delves into what distinguishes humanity from other species, and how that distinction is oftentimes ambiguous and wavering. One of the underlying themes within Dick’s work is what it means to be a human, and how humans are differentiated from other species such as androids. In his article, Jeremy Adam Smith says “perhaps no quality…show more content…
Dick says “empathy must be limited to herbivores… because, ultimately, the empathetic gift blurred the boundaries between hunter and victim, between the successful and the defeated” (Dick 11). If carnivous animals felt empathy, they would not be able to hunt or subsequently survive. However, this is a direct contradiction to Decker’s job, which involves hunting down androids. Dick asserts that carnivores cannot have empathy; Decker and the bounty hunters are able to do their job because they view androids as inferior, but although a lion’s prey is inferior to it, the lion still hunts it. Deckard, at one point in the book, states that owning real animals is a human trait and androids usually fail to keep real animals alive because “animals require an environment of warmth to flourish” (Dick 130). However, Deckard was also unable to keep his sheep alive, which is why he had an electric one at the beginning of the novel. Even when he reveals this to his neighbor, he is more concerned about how his failure to keep his sheep alive will be viewed in society, rather than the death of the sheep. When he thinks about his electric sheep, he compares androids to animals— “the electric animal could be considered a subform of the other, a kind of vastly inferior robot…” and “the android could be regarded as a highly developed, evolved version of the ersatz animal” (Dick 42). The classification of androids as…show more content…
Decker and Bryant acknowledge “a small class of human beings could not pass the Voigt-Kampff” test. (Dick 36). How, then, can humanity be defined by their empathy? Are these people—psychopaths and schizophrenics— not considered human? Or is empathy not a comprehensive way to classify humans? Isidore’s use of the empathy box, and its importance in Mercerism, establishes that empathy is not important as an emotional reaction, but as a method to unite humans. Isidore states that an empathy box is “the way you stop being alone” (Dick 24). The purpose of the empathy box is to remind humans of their common identity, which is partly rooted in their superiority to androids. Ironically, the presence of empathy does not make humans kinder or more sensitive, but rather allows them to unite and assert their superiority over androids. In the study, How Anthropomorphism Affects Empathy Towards Robots, the researchers conclude that people are more likely to empathize with robots that look more human than with mechanical-looking robots. This reaffirms the view that empathy acts as a uniting force amongst humans; Deckard refers to androids as “a solitary predator” (Dick 11). However, with the advanced technology depicted in the book, humans venture further from humanity constantly. They utilize the Penfield Mood Organ, which allows them to program and change their emotional states—they can

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