Sci-Fi Compared to Modern Times: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Blade Runner

April 08, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

 

Perspective

Classic Sci-Fi Compared to Modern Times:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Blade Runner

by Carmilla Caruana

  

 In the past few years we have experienced a pandemic, severe natural disasters at a more frequent rate, wars and threats of war by countries with nuclear weapons and global temperatures rising to the hottest day on record being broken multiple times in a year. We have also had amazing breakthroughs in technology and exciting plans for space exploration. It’s easy to see that we have come to live in the era that many sci-fi authors and visionaries have both inspired and warned us about. I have always liked sci-fi but with all of this going on in the world today, I can’t help but want to pick up some sci-fi masterpieces and compare. Due to the wildfire smoke in Canada last summer, NYC became the most polluted place on Earth and several photos were taken to especially compare the orange haze engulfing the city to the scenes of the Blade Runner films. I happened to have already begun reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick while getting a real life small taste of how depressing the world is in the story. 

I will never forget last summer and the days we lived without seeing the sun, no birds sang and much wildlife had become scarce. I even witnessed a fishkill at my neighborhood park’s pond with a dead racoon floating in the water with all of the fish. This is the state of the entire world in “Blade Runner” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. 

In “Blade Runner” we see the world is covered in pollution but it doesn’t go into detail of why. There are hints about the lack of wildlife such as the artificial owl at the Tyrell corporation and later in the film, Harrison Ford’s character, Deckard, asks an adult entertainer, Zhora, if her snake is real and she replies  “Of course it's not real. You think I would be working in a place like this if I could afford a real snake?”. The stories are about as different as their titles and mostly share a similar concept and setting. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” not only goes into more details about the state of the world but also how it is affecting everyone mentally. 

In “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” we find out the world is in such a horrible state due to World War Terminus leaving the world covered in radioactive dust. Most humans have immigrated to space colonies while some remain on Earth out of choice or because of genetic discrimination due to damage from the dust. Most wildlife have died off and what animals are left have to rely on humans to be taken care of and survive since their habitats have all been destroyed. Most of the humans left on Earth feel such a strong guilt and obligation to help the animals left that anyone who is known to not take care of an animal is noted by the rest of society as unempathetic. Rick Deckard is the ashamed owner of an electric sheep, because his real sheep died and he didn’t want anyone to find out he no longer had an animal. He hopes and dreams of being able to afford purchasing another sheep or an even more impressive animal such as a horse.  

Another difference in stories is that in the book, Rick has a wife, Iran, and she is especially struggling with depression due to the state of the world. Rick doesn’t know how to help her and keeps suggesting she uses these devices called “Penfield Mood Organs” to “dial a mood” to keep her out of depression. At first I thought of prescription drugs such as antidepressants in order to simply push through the depressions of their lives but then I thought of my own preferred method that is becoming more popular today, binaural frequencies and autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) which I “dial” via apps like Youtube and Spotify. Rick heavily relies on the mood organs to stay in a necessary mental state to do his job. Iran explains how the mood organs seem like a blessing at first “but then I realized how unhealthy it was, sensing the absence of life, not just in this building but everywhere, and not reacting–do you see? I guess you don’t. But that used to be considered a sign of mental illness; they called it ‘absence of appropriate effect’.”. Unfortunately this can be a problem today, especially with some of those who prefer to take medication to treat symptoms rather than confront the cause of the problem or even worse those who quickly suggest medication to others.

Besides mood organs, another technology that people seem to rely on for mental health is an empathy box which seems to connect people similar to social media; however while some users use it to share their joyful feelings for others to feel, others share their pain which can also be felt. This is the same for social media today, people sharing their joys can inspire others while people sharing their pain can be draining. 

Another difference between film and book is Mercerism, a new religion, has taken popularity and encourages empathy. Throughout most of the book, Rick is a non believer but after having his faith in life crushed by the harsh realities of his work, eliminating human-like replicants. This was my least favorite part of the book but after going through such a dark period and losing faith and hope in the world I have found myself more drawn to my own spiritual path. Sometimes it’s through the darkest times of our lives when we become most drawn to light, we find our inspiration and hope to make a change for a better world. This doesn’t happen to everyone and not all will understand but those who have found religion to help them out of their own darkest days will. 

The final part I’d like to discuss is that classic sci-fi novels, such as this one, are popular among the androids in the book. They find it particularly interesting what humans thought the world was going to be like in the future, which is now the present, and seeing what they predicted correctly or incorrectly and here I am, constantly failing CAPTCHA tests to prove that I’m not a robot. Now let me tell you about my mother… 

 

 


Fish Kill at Briant Park Pond, Summit, NJ

July 16, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Photo by Carmilla Caruana, July 8th 2023

Fish kill with dead raccoon at Briant Park, Summit NJ. July 8, 2023
                  

       This summer has had several experiences I may never forget. June had many days that we were covered in wildfire smoke from Canada until the beginning of July. July 3rd was the hottest day ever recorded on Earth, then July 4th was even hotter. Independence day was filled with firework shows as usual which put us right back into our own smoke cloud as soon as wildfire smoke cleared. Just as summer seemed to be returning to normal, on July 7th, my local neighborhood pond at Briant Park in Summit, NJ, had experienced a fish kill. I was notified by my neighbor that she saw an unusual amount of dead fish in the pond so I immediately grabbed my camera to investigate. The dam waterfall was lined with dead fish and there were others scattered all around the pond. I counted up to 47 and immediately called the Union County Park and Recreation department and spoke with their secretary whom said the office was empty for the weekend but gave me the director, Victoria Durbin-Drake's email to notify her. I sent the email. I then headed to the western side of the South Mountain Reservation to check the waterways there. Everything there seemed fine so I went home for the evening hoping that something would be done soon, families with kids didn't need to see these dead fish and the smell was only going to get worse overtime. Some of the fish were fairly rotted, eaten and falling apart, so it's hard to tell how long they had been dead for. Between the overgrown amounts of vegetation, the extreme heat, the smoke, or the mass amounts of rain that just passed through, it was hard to tell which or how many of these factors could have contributed. I was told that Cranford was having similar issues with fish kills and I found an article about another in Newark. (https://www.tapinto.net/towns/newark/sections/green/articles/cause-remains-unknown-for-fishkill-at-newark-s-weequahic-park)

     The next day, my neighbor contacted me again to let me know the fish were still there. I went to observe and see if there were more, the amount wasn't much greater but they had grouped more by the dam. The pond reeked of rotting fish and now there was also a dead raccoon floating by the dam with the fish. After I saw the raccoon, I told my neighbor that we should go to the police station immediately to find out who we can talk to in order to get this cleaned up immediately. We arrived at the Summit Police station and they sent out an officer to speak with us. The officer gave us a number written on a sticky note to call the Union police. As soon as I returned home, I called the number and the Union Police told me that the state was already informed. Later that evening, most of the fish had been cleaned up. I still felt uneasy about the incident and that night did some more research on fish kills in the area. When I found the DEP 24/7 Hotline which asked to report all fish kills immediately. I was shocked that nobody gave me this number before nor mentioned that they would be contacted. I left a message and made a report in the phone app. Sunday, I traveled to Bloodgoods pond in Clark, NJ. I didn't see any dead fish or live ones for that matter. There was even a fisherman that seemed to have given up and left after no catches or bites.  I was contacted on Monday by the DEP and I shared my info about the other local waterways that I investigated which seemed fine, but also the lack of wildlife since the incident. Briant park usually has dozens of chipmunks and squirrels running around all the time but since the fish kill there have hardly been any to be seen within a mile radius. I also let him know about how the pond has become like a marsh, overgrown with vegetation over the years and how locals are constantly complaining about it not being what it used to be. A week later the wildlife seem to be returning but it seems most of the usual crowd has been staying away from the park. The fish kill happened from a combination of factors between the extreme heat, the overgrown vegetation and too many fish for the water to have enough oxygen. 

  IF YOU OBSERVE A FISH KILL IN NEW JERSEY PLEASE NOTIFY DEP IMMEDIATELY AT THE 24/7 DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).

 

 



 

July 7th, 2023.                      

 

 

 


          

 

 

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