Book Review - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Published on: 2023-06-14 05:25:59

I have never seen Blade Runner. But I have heard of it. And in that same context I have heard of this book. It seemed interesting in the way a curio in an antique shop is interesting. You want to look at it, and see what it's for, you want to imagine how it looks like in your home but you never end up buying it because it's just a simle curiosity. This book was that for me. It tickled my curiosity, but never enough for me to actually want to read it.

I read only one oner book by Philp K. Dick before - A Scanner Darkly. I did not finish it. It couldn't hod my attention and I dropped it after a couple of chapters. I expected to do the same for this.

To say I was blown away would be an understatement. This book has to one of the best sci-fi novels I read, ever. The only other book I would rate as high would be The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. But that is beside the point. This book is a masterpiece. That is the entire point of this review.

As of writing this review, we are living through an inflexion point in AI development. It is not intelligent. It is certainly not capable of thinking. ANd it certainly not sentient. But sometimes, it can fake that very well, especially agents like ChatGPT whose sole purpose is to chat with people. The androids in this book feel the same way.

The are obviously human in appearance and genenral behaviour. They are superhuman in intelligence. They contain kernels of thought that makes them seem sentience. (Although, I cannot remove from my mind the possiblity that they might just be very sophisticated next-token predictors, I have assumed that there is actual throught behind them.) And yet, there are ways in which humans will always be uniquely human. I have seen people arguing recently that the capacity to perform and appreciate art is what makes humans humans. That the kernel of our humanity lies in this. Or in our emotions, in the way we are emotionally affected and the way we emotinoally effect the world around us. This is what the book explores. We are humans because we have empathy.

How fresh this concept is? How wonderfully human it is? I am glad I read this book. It is not great piece of prose. It is awfully plebian in certain aspects. Yet the way it presented empathy as being that uniquely human attribute is the breath of fresh air I always wanted.

If there is one thing I would recommend, it is this. When reading, let yourself be carried away, suspend your disbelief all that easily, it makes the experience better. Allow yourself to feel with the book rather than being cynical for it's own sake. You will understand the core of the book better.

I would not read this agin. It will never hit as hard.