Friday, September 15, 2006

The PKDBot

Being a PKD fan, I was surprised to find this. Especially as there seems precious little info about it on the net, indeed one of the links in the article gives a fake IE 404 page (does it not occur to the siteowner that scarcely any techies use IE these days?).
The bot looks a good 'un too:
And yet, Olney says that at shows where the PKDbot was set up: "A lot of people would come up and hold the robot's hand, though they weren't really invited to do that. It was very interesting to me that by making it look very human and respond as humanly as we could, it could evoke that kind of response. It says something about human psychology."

Unfortunately the owner seems to have lost the bot's head. If PKD were still alive, I'm sure this would inspire him to write an entire new story.

Like many males, I was a voracious reader of SF in my teens but lost interest in it IIRC about the same time as heavy metal. I still find PKD, almost alone amongst SF writers, eminently readable. Probably because his work explores human conditions amongst the technology, rather than the 'rayguns and rocketships' aspect, getting into areas like self-delusion, the Tibetan Book of the Dead or drugs. In fact I'd have to say he was pretty weak in the 'R&R' area.
I also find it quite amazing how since Blade Runner, nearly every SF film made these days seems to be based on one of his stories. That film is amongst my all-time faves, particularly with Deckard's seduction of Rachel. If SF has any value it has to be in precisely that area, how does the technology alter our consciousness? Deckard confronting Rachel with the knowledge that she's not a real human, to have sex with and fall in love with an automaton, and to have to confront the possibility that you yourself might be a 'replicant', is an area that non-SF can't really pursue (though I suppose you could have an analogous racist situation).

The article linked above contains a mention of one of his stories I'd never come across before:

or example, the android in The Electric Ant, who believes he is human until hospital doctors tell him otherwise. (Inside his chest he finds moving reels of punched paper tape; when he reconfigures the holes, reality shifts.)

Only PKD would come up with the latter part. :)

As a side note, I'm always amazed to find how differently our reality's changing compared to the SF novels. We seem to be way ahead of the curve in terms of computers and communications, while way behind on space exploration. The computers are almost always crap. The voice synth on the original Star Trek's is pathetic compared to Stephen Hawking's (and he deliberately keeps an outdated model as that voice is so strongly associated with him) or the screen in Alien that brings up letters so slowly it's got to be linked to the silicon at less than 400 bits/second, while in South Korea, a new 2GB/sec internet service has just been rolled out to the public.


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