Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To Build An Android

Eric Matthews
David F. Duffy’s How To Build An Android sounds like a book one would want to read, despite a lukewarm review of the writer’s prose in the Lawrence Downes review that appeared in The New York Times Book Review (Talking Head,” NYT, 6/22/12) “It explains how a team of researchers at the University of Memphis collaborated in 2005 with an artist and robotics expert, David Hanson, to create what was then the most sophisticated android anywhere, a replica of the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick. They called him Phil." “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep” is, of course the title of a famous Dick short story. But it’s as if Dick actually came back to life and scripted the event itself, if Downes review is an reflection on the story Duffy tells. Apparently, Phil, who was made from a “polymer called Frubber” and was capable both of “making faces” and meeting "a visitor’s gaze,” was “left…in a carry-on bag in the overhead bin” on a flight “from Dallas to San Francisco” when “Hanson changed planes in Las Vegas.” So there are two elements of great interest: the disappearance of the head and its inception. How To Build An Android would definitely be a good title for the fiction, if the author of the non-fiction book doesn’t object. The details would suggest one of Dick’s most advanced stories and a story which has no end. The head which was so over programmed that it couldn’t be shut up, was never found. Could it have engineered it’s own escape and then constructed its own equivalent of a witness protection program, where it furnished itself with a new identity? Remember an android doesn’t require much in the way of TLC and it certainly doesn’t require food, water or sex. Perhaps Phil made himself at home in the fun house of a carnival where he now reenacts Linda Blair’s 360 from The Exorcist, to the screams of terrified teenagers.

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