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Critical Wiki: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep


In the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep [1] Philip K. Dick, establishes a sense of unfair and “rogue” justice throughout the story. The book opens with a brief argument between Rick, the main character and his wife, Iran. “Get your crude cop’s hand away,” Iran said. “I’m not a cop.” He felt irritable, now, although he hadn’t dialed for it. “You’re worse,” his wife said, her eyes still shut. “You’re a murderer hired by the cops.” I’ve never killed a human being in my life.” His irritability had risen now; had become outright hostility. Iran said, “Just those poor andys.” [2] It’s clear that Iran does not approve of the work that Rick does and her eyes she views him as a murder rather than a bounty hunter, as his job is titled in the book. This is just one example of how Dick treats the notion of justice, and those who enforce the form of “unfair” justice he depicts through his text. Through the use of such primitive and unfair tests as the “Voigt-Kampff” test, harsh punishment such as the instant “retirement” of any androids and the manipulation of the main character to begin to question his own actions as a bounty hunter, all create a sense of unfair justice in the novel.


Voigt-Kampff Test Edit

One excellent example of the unfair justice that Dick creates in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the use of a tool known as the Voigt-Kampff test. Dick writes of the Voigt-Kampff test and how it was used as a tool to judge. “…new scales of achievement, for example the Voigt-Kampff Empathy Test, had emerged as criteria by which to judge. An android, no matter how gifted as to pure intellectual capacity, could make no sense out of the fusion which took place routinely”[3] One can clearly see that the Voigt-Kampff test was created simply “as a criteria by which to judge”[good place for a link] as described above. Also, one must question the basis for this test. Dick writes how the test only looks at one aspect, empathy. “’What is the basis of your Voigt-Kampff test, Mr. Deckard?’ Empathic response. In a variety of social situations. Mostly having to do with animals.” [4]. The one and only basis for this Voigt Kampff test is the test for empathic response from the subject that is being tested. One can only ask, what if a human who simply has little to no empathic response was given a “false positive” result on this scale? There is some discussion in the book in terms of instances were there test’s results come back inconclusive which would then require the administration of a bone marrow exam to be the ultimate decider. In the case of Rachael Rosen, Rick performs the Voigt-Kampff test on her and concludes that she is an android. However her father, Eldon Rosen, pleads that she is not an android, when in fact she is.[5] “The elder Rosen said, “She’s not an android.”[6] The first thing Rick orders is a bone marrow test for Rachael to prove her case. “I want a bone marrow analysis made of you,” Rick said to her. “It can eventually be organically determined whether you’re android or not; it’s slow and painful, admittedly.”[7] This does not give the androids much of a choice, it's either fail the Voigt-Kampff test and be "retired" or be subjected to a painful bone marrow test. This does not give the androids any justice in the story. One could compare the use of the Voigt-Kampff test on androids in way that is much similar to how those who are racially profiled[8] in our nation’s airports[9] are scrutinized through extra, excessive and often unnecessary screening. For example,

Instant Retirement Edit

Another example of the unfair justice that the androids face when on earth is the fate that they face once they are discovered to be androids. “Evidently the humanoid robot constituted a solitary predator. Rick liked to think of them that way; it made his job palatable. In retiring – i.e., killing – an andy, he did not violate the rule of life laid down by Mercer. You shall kill only the killers, Mercer told them the year empathy boxes first appeared on Earth.” [10] Dick does an excellent job of describing how the main character, Rick defines the androids as "killers". "For Rick Deckard an escapes Humanoid robot, which had killed its master, which had been equipped with an intelligence greater that that of many human beings, which had no regard for animals, which possessed no ability to feel empathic joy for another life form's success or grief as its defeat - that, for him, epitomized The Killers." [11] Now of course androids have escaped to earth only after killing their masters on Mars, but for good reason. Their conditions on Mars can only be compared to those that a slave[12] may have endured. The government would label the androids as servants and use them as an incentive to have those who were still left on earth emigrate to Mars. Dick writes "Under U.N. law each emigrant automatically received possession of an android subtype of his choice, and, by 2019, the variety of subtypes passed all understanding, in the manner of American automobiles in the 1960's. That had been the ultimate incentive of emigration: the android servant" [13] The label set forth by the government gives the androids no chance in getting a life of there own, where is the justice in that? Where is the justice in the rule set forth by Mercer? There is none. The androids are only given one choice after they are discovered. Rick is forced to “retire” any android that he discovers on earth, they are not given a chance to return to Mars and make right for their wrongs or given the chance to live on earth, they are simply killed or as I wish to call it murdered.


Rick Feels Empathy for Androids Edit

There comes a point in Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? where the main character, Rick, begins to feel empathy for the androids. "Rick said, "I took a test, one question, and verified it; I've begun to empathize with androids, and look what that means." [14] Rick begins to question the motives of his job now that he has begun to empathize with the androids. Rick recieves a videocall from the police department giving him the location of the remaining anroids that he had yet to retire. "Conapt Building 3967-C," Inspector Bryant said. "Get over there as soon as you can. We have to assume they know about the ones you picked off, Garland and Luft and Polokov; that's why they've taken unlawful flight." "Unlawful," Rick repeated. To save their lives." [15] As you can see Rick has begun to see the world the way the androids see it, and see why the do run. It's apparent that through Dick's novel that he knows that these androids have no justice and to begin to have the main character question his own actions shows that Rick feels that these androids should have some chance, some sense of justice, that they do not have now.



  1. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. Print.
  2. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 2. Print.
  3. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 30. eBook.
  4. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 86. eBook.
  5. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. Print.
  6. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 40. eBook.
  7. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 40. eBook.
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_profiling
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airport_security
  10. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 31. Print.
  11. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 26. eBook.
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery
  13. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 17. eBook.
  14. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 124. eBook.
  15. Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey Book, 1975. 126. eBook.

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