Tag Archives: Philip K. Dick

Davis asks Lethem about Dick

H+ Magazine puts out some interesting content, even if you don’t consider yourself a transhumanist: here’s Erik “Techgnosis” Davis interviewing Jonathan Lethem about science fiction legend Philip K Dick:

For people familiar with Dick‘s personal experiences, his biography and his temperament, the ironies in that are deep and bitter and complicated. You inevitably think: if he‘d been alive, he would‘ve screwed this up. He would‘ve found some way to make it impossible that he could be treated with such simple reverence, because he was so distrustful of any form of institutional authority. He had a particularly deep, bitter and twisted suspiciousness about traditional literary authority and about academia. And frankly, to some extent, it‘s academia that‘s driven his acceptance in a canon.

When I was a kid and I discovered Philip K. Dick, I felt that I‘d made this kind of soul mate contact with his work. It‘s a defining experience, and it feels like it‘s innate. For me, that experience was absolutely bound up in finding these books that were out of print. The books almost seemed like fictional artifacts. I couldn‘t believe there was such a writer. I still remember thinking his name seemed weird or that his titles seemed preposterous to me. It was like a secret reality unfolding in my life.

Of course, H+ is as H+ does, and the Singularity gets a little look-in. However, Lethem isn’t convinced that our technologies are changing us as much as we think they are:

My best guess about such matters is that each technological transformation, up to and perhaps including the Singularity, is going to work itself out vis-à-vis “the human” according to the deep principles of all media. Defined in its largest sense, as including things like cinema, theory, drugs, computing, moving type, music, etcetera, media is utterly consciousness-transforming in ways we can no longer competently examine, given how deeply they‘ve pervaded and altered the collective and individual consciousness that would be the only possible method for making that judgment. And yet -— we still feel so utterly human to ourselves, and the proof is in the anthropomorphic homeliness that pervades the ostensibly exalted “media” in return. We humanize them, shame them, colonize and debunk them with our persistent modes of sex and neurosis and community and commerce. We turn them into advertisements for ourselves, rather than opportunities for shedding ourselves. At least so far.

Well worth a read.

Wintermute vs. Rachel Rosen

aiHere is a fine exploration of the differences and similarities in the use of artificial intelligences in Philip K. Dick and William Gibson’s writing:

Turing, whose purpose is to prevent AIs from developing too far, mirror the bounty hunters in Androids — the sole purpose of each is to control and destroy rogue intelligences, although in both novels their roles are shown from very different perspectives. In Neuromancer Turing are genuinely afraid of AIs: “You have no care for your species,” one Turing agent says to Case, “for thousands of years men dreamed of pacts with demons”.

Both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Neuromancer portray artificial intelligences as lacking in empathy, but in different ways and for different reasons.

But would a human equivalent AI necessarily be lacking in empathy? Are humans as empathetic as we’d like to believe?

[via this tweet from SciFi Rules][image from agroni on flickr]

Pupil-dilation stress-scanner: You’re walking through an airport…you come across a tortoise…

pkdThe Guardian reports that the U.S. government is looking for a way to spot evildoers by scanning for “physiological abnormalities.” A call for proposals says:

Early research has shown that pupil size varies with changes in a person’s cognitive processing load. Current but unproven studies suggest that a cognitive decision to deceive or practise deception will result in an increased pupil size due to the greater cognitive processing required in comparison to truthful recall.

Sounds more than a bit like the Voight-Kampff replicant-detector test from Blade Runner (it was Philip K. Dick’s idea, Guardian, not Ridley Scott’s). The reporter adds an appropriate note of skepticism:

I wonder how often a system might raise a false alarm, since a lot of people are pretty stressed going through airports even when they’re not up to anything mischievous.

[Image: Torley]