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… 

 

 


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