The values and interpretation of what is real and unreal are determined throughout the novel of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. The author describes settings of reality and virtual life intertwined. The idea of our society being taken over by virtual aspects and technology is presented through the use of mercerism, the empathy box, and the androids.
The concept of empathy is to have compassion towards others consciously and not physically.
This video demonstrates empathy in a way which could be perceived as how it is executed in the novel. It gives a visual of an empathy box and the connections of humans and their emotions through the object.
Humans need and feel empathy daily, and for them to survive or be a natural person. It is obvious in our world today, people, businesses, and corporations all deal with empathy in some form. The interaction between people is what makes us a human being. It just comes naturally… Dick’s interpretation that empathy is conducted through an empathy box shows that, he believes people must merge with another to receive the emotions and feelings. The way to interpret between real humans and androids (virtual humans) is by recognizing any empathy or emotions that the people have towards animals and each other. In the present generation, we can relate the empathy box to social networking. People use the Internet and websites such as Facebook or Twitter, to gain the empathy from others. For example, the status box on Facebook can relate entirely to the empathy box. Users of Facebook write how they are feeling, what they are doing, or any random thought as their status, to obtain feedback or attention from other people who have accounts on this site. The whole concept of a site such as Facebook is to interact with others.
The value of the empathy box in this novel is portrayed by a character, Rick Deckard. This man, a bounty hunter who retires androids, has a link to mercerism. The concept of actually gaining the feelings through the empathy box is done by merging with mercer and others virtually. It’s as if Dick anticipates our culture to become one in need of emotions in the future from the discrepancy of what could be real.
Mercerism is an emotion based upon philosophy and religion, but Deckard makes it something more than that. He actually psychologically processes it into himself. Towards the end of the book, Deckard unites himself as one with Mercer. This is the point where the author creates the visual of losing touch with who we are, but really all that matters is what the person feels is real. Deckard and the other characters in this novel build everything up to base it around mercerism and the contents of what it provides to all. Having mercerism available to the characters in the novel gives them each separate feelings that they strive off of to feel good, and accomplished for just a mere moment of time. The real twist is the fact that mercerism is a fake. The news of this false advertised mercerism was spread for people to know, but the outcome was that everyone still continued to believe in it.
People today are connected to the news. We gain information about our world or community by watching TV, reading the paper, or searching various websites. But then there are the false advertisements. This is where the concept of mercerism is relatable. Tabloids, talk shows, and news sites all can send out the wrong information. It is the fact that we, as people, have the choice to believe what is credible or not. We can listen to what Glen Beck has to say about the most recent President and his outrageous story, or we can refuse to agree that what this one person is saying is real.
The humans in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? have had mercerism and the empathy box pressed into their lives, just like people in the current generation have media built in their culture. Each person has the right to believe or not to believe.
Our society has been transformed as the years pass. Dick displays humans with emotional and logical aspects, and androids as intellectual and logical. The idea of an android is to take place as a doppelganger. Dick places the idea in the reader’s minds that these people will be our society. A virtual reality is set up through virtual identities. We see this today by the use of online blogging. People create blog sites, and post blogs over a wide range of topics. On some of these blogs, there is no way to know who the person really is, or if the person has any academic credibility whatsoever. A blog can be a virtual world.
Such as, the blog site, The Pioneer Woman. It is an entertainment blog of a housewife and her daily duties, along with her interests and hobbies. http://thepioneerwoman.com/
Blogging is a way for a person to let go of who they really are and become who they want to be, or to elaborate on the real person they are. The creation of this site, like any blog site, forms personalities. People can set up their own account under any name they want. As an outsider looking in on these blogs, we make the choice to indulge ourselves and our mind in what the person is saying. A blogger can hide who they really are, and become someone else. Just like an android. There are only certain ways to know if a character in the story is android or human, such as the empathy tests. The interpretations of an android have to be distinct, but Dick blurs the two beings to show the distorted vision of reality.
There will always be the continuous paranoia in a person’s life. What to do next, who to listen to, where to go, it’s all a cycle. Dick presents the cycle of life as being overpowered by the virtual life, but power contains more than just that idea. From the links of mercerism, empathy, and androids, the character Deckard runs his business and family. There are always going to be needs, anticipations, and requirements in reality. What the main character faces when dealing with his distinction between what is real and what is fake, is linked to the animals. Animals are a status rank in the world Dick has presented. The better the animal, the higher the status of the person. People in today’s society buy materialistic objects to gain happiness. Businesses are run by producing products, and consumers purchasing them. In Dick’s world, the people buy animals. This is what leads the main character into his agreement with reality. Deckard finds a toad along the roadside, symbolizing hope for what he has believed throughout the entire novel. He sees this as an opportunity to come to realization with the reality he faces. It turns out that the toad is a fake, just like everything he has dealt with. The author builds the story and plot up, just to be let down.
I see this as a turn of fate. The character finally realizes that it really doesn’t matter what is real and what is not, what matters is what the person feels is real. This is what the author is trying to display throughout his novel. With the connections to empathy and emotions, mercerism and being engaged with others, along with guessing who is real and fake, a reality has been formed.