My two preoccupations in my writing are "What is reality?" and "What is the authentic human?" - Philip K. Dick [1]

In Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?[2], he foresees a day when androids – manufactured artificial humans – will become difficult to tell from true humans, perhaps ultimately becoming indistinguishable. Originally designed as weapons, androids are then offered as servants:

A meager colonization program had been underway before the war, but now that the sun had ceased to shine on Earth, the colonization entered an entirely new phase. In connection with this a weapon of war, the Synthetic Freedom Fighter, had been modified; able to function on an alien world, the humanoid robot – strictly speaking, the organic android – had become the mobile donkey engine of the colonization program. Under U.N. law each emigrant automatically received possession of an android subtype of his choice [2]
Unfortunately, repurposing a weapon as a servant has unexpected consequences; for, as Dick points out, "the humanoid robot constituted a solitary predator", and as such, would not survive if it had empathy for its prey. Thus, these androids have no empathy for humans, and so some, recognizing their plight as slaves, kill their masters and flee to Earth.

However, on Earth, androids are hunted down and killed by bounty hunters like Rick Deckard. Unfortunately for him, these androids (and the company that manufactures and promotes them) attempt to manipulate his perception of androids. This leads Rick to question his ability to do his job of distinguishing human from android, the reality of his memories, and whether he himself is human or android.

Ultimately, Deckard does his job, but in the process comes to the epiphany that all living things “have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are.” This presumably includes androids, thus calling into question the necessity of differentiating humans from androids.

  1. Dick, Philip K. "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later." I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon. Garden Dity, New York: Doubleday, 1985. 1-23. Print. Available:
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. New York: Ballantine, 1996.