Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) is probably Philip K. Dick's most well-known novel. This is due, in part, to its subsequent adaptation by Ridley Scott into the movie Blade Runner. This novel is without a doubt Dick's most important android work, and arguably one of the most important novels about androids or artificial humans. It looks at what it means to be human, questions reality, and blurs the lines between real and artificial. In this novel the humans become inhuman and the androids become human. The humans question their own humanity and the androids question their artificiality. This book fully explores the robot consciousness its implications. Would robots want their freedom if they became just like humans? Should they have their own rights? Are androids capable of empathy?

Plot Summary:
Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, plans to kill enough errant androids (replicants) so he can replace his robotic sheep with a real one. In the process of hunting down these slave pseudo-humans, Rick Deckard falls in love with an android and learns about himself and what it means to be human--and inhuman.

What is the role of the robot? Why was it created?:
The androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are created to be the slaves of humans. They are specifically designed as laborers on Lunar colonies: many humans have left Earth because it has become polluted and unfit for life.

Is the robot designed to look human?:
The replicants in this book are created to exactly resemble humans. There is often confusion whether a humanoid is real or android. Bounty hunters and others use the Voigt-Kampff test to distinguish human from replicant. The test consists of questions which elicit an emotional response. Replicants supposedly have no capacity for empathy, and their unemotional reaction to Voigt-Kampff questions reveals their artificiality.

What is the reaction to the robot? How is it viewed?:
Humans rely on the replicants for their labor, but when they escape the colonies and integrate with "real" humans they become the enemies--something to be "retired."

What are the consequences of the robot?:
Replicants are the way Rick Deckard explores his own humanity in this novel. They make Deckard realize that he might not be so human after all. Rick Deckard actually becomes more inhuman than the replicants he is remorselessly hunting. Deckard also falls in love with the replicant Rachel in this story.

This novel is the blending of the human and the artificial. It explores human consciousness, robot consciousness, and how they are similar and different. It is one of the fundamental books about the consequences of sentient robots that look identical to humans. Who or what is the real human? This is the main theme of this novel.


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