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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bring Me the Android Head of Philip K. Dick

Posted by on Wed, Jul 4, 2012 at 3:57 PM

How to Build an Android is the true story of the android Philip K. Dick, which was built to show off how far artificial intelligence has come. Scientists crammed the android Dick's head full of interviews with the science fiction author, and then spackled in the cracks with an artificial intuition that would often construct a semi-realistic answer to basic questions. Back in 2005, the head disappeared on an airplane, never to be seen again.

Author David F. Dufty explains in simple language how the android came to be, describes with giddy prose how the android came to be a celebrity in less than a year of its construction, and then struggles to put this story into a greater context. Android isn't the best book to read if you're interested in artificial intelligence—local author Brian Christian's The Most Human Human is probably the best nontechnical study of what AI means for all of us—but if you're a Philip K. Dick fan, I'd encourage you to check it out.

And there's a lot of humanity in here for a book about a highly intelligent mannequin. Android would be worth it just for the surprisingly touching scenes of Dick's daughters confronting the robotic recreation of their father for the first time. The passages containing transcriptions of the android's public appearances are a kind of bizarre poetry. And Dufty's descriptions of the android itself are strangely beautiful. Besides—in what other nonfiction book are you going to find a photo caption that reads "The android head prepared for transport," I ask you? Yeah, that's what I thought.


Comments (3) RSS

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Dr_Awesome 1
The mind boggles... what sort of permissions must one get before creating an android doppleganger of somebody? Somebody who wrote about the blurry line between humans and human androids. And who is no longer alive to give such permission...
Posted by Dr_Awesome on July 4, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
You know that head is still out there, somewhere, plotting questionable things...
Posted by madcap on July 4, 2012 at 7:09 PM · Report this
--MC 3
I hope somebody's hooked the bastard thing to a computer and let it access Wordpad.
Posted by --MC on July 5, 2012 at 7:20 AM · Report this

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