The Relationship Between Humans and Machines: Through the Eyes of Philip K. Dick

May, 2005

An analysis by Eli Eisenberger
e-mail: elieisenberger[at]gmail[dot]com
Click here to download the Word document

A note from Eli:
“I am from Monsey, NY, I am an avid hockey player, firefighter and am a senior in Ramapo College of New Jersey, and as part of the school requirement each student is required to write a senior thesis. I chose to take science and literature being that I am a Biology major. For the class we had to pick science fiction literature and find dissertations on it, add our own thoughts, and put it all together. I had just recently saw the movie Minority Report, so I chose to write about Philip Dick’s work. What I noticed was, there is not alot of literature on Dick except on a few of his stories, so I had to do research on him and basically come up with my own dissertation. I noticed that in the stories I was reading there was always a human and computer/robot character, so I Chose that for my topic. All in all i enjoyed it, and have read many other of Dick’s stories since. ”

Abstract: What is reality? With computers evolving like they are today what will be the difference between humans and computers? What will our relationship with computers be a hundred years from now? Are humans doomed to be defeated by a grand “evil” computer? These are some of the questions that Philip K. Dick has proposed and attempted to answer in many of his literary works. Three in particular, “The Minority Report”, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” and “The Electric Ant”, all seem to focus on the relationship between humans and computers. The three works are listed in chronological order, and as I will attempt to show in this paper, they were written in that order for a reason. I believe that Dick was writing about three different, yet progressive stages in the relationship of humans and computers.

The first stage is a separated relationship, where computers help humans but share no attachment. Similar to today, we use a computer to organize our work and type papers etc. In this stage, we, the humans, are in control of the computers, and have total control over what they can do. The Second stage is the ability for computers to connect with humans in some way. This step has already started today, with nanotechnology and mechanical prosthetics. In this stage humans still have control of the computers; however their control is getting to be limited. Limited in a way that humans can put the computer in its place to do work, but through the calculations that were programmed into it, the computer can make its own judgments. Lastly, the third stage is when the two are completely combined. There is no longer human control in this stage, and the computers are self sufficient, unless tampered with, by a human. This is where we will see the difference between humans and computers as expressed by Dick. Humans have a certain “inner drive” that pushes them to the limits, while computers seem to be more stable, and less likely to destroy themselves. Lets us take a closer look at each story and through analysis see the relationships as Philip K. Dick wanted to show us.

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