Archive for June, 2017

We concluded the last Drozbot post talking about Philip K Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and the theme of empathy within its pages. Talk of emphatic responses, coupled with Sci-Fi, and immediately images of Diana Troy from Star Trek: the Next Generation spring to mind. Other examples beyond her, though, are few and far between. There are plentiful examples within the realms of the comic super hero, and the mutants therein, but precious few in novels and film. OK, Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and… Anyone else as memorable? We think there’s a valid reason for this derth, however. Empaths are notoriously tough to write.

Imagine you’ve got a seemingly friendly antagonist who’s actually a serial killer in disguise. Once they bump into your onboard empath… What then? Or, you decide to set a scene where your characters visit the site of a recent atrocity, resulting in your empath being overwhelmed and becoming a mere, writhing plot device to show just how bad things were. But this is just the benevolent empaths. Corrupt the ability to sense and act upon the emotions of others, and you’ve got The Pusher from the X-Files, or Kilgrave from Jessica Jones. Evocative stuff!

President Obama famously highlighted an empathy deficit within America. Although an understandable appraisal, considering the rise of the narcissistic cult of social media, it should be seen as a call for a shift in attitude towards interpersonal technologies as opposed to limiting these technologies themselves. The rise of populist movements, the use of algorithmic predictive behaviour models in voting, the fact that lies can no longer stay hidden… It’s a true pluralistic, Dickian mess. But there are positive stories coming to the fore of people rejecting given forms of self-centered behavior – as with the rise of real world empaths giving readings for businesses and individuals.

Ultimately, there’s hope and change in the air and, if there is anything to be fearful about within a PKD future, it’s whether Blade Runner 2049 is actually going to be any good.

Tags: , , , , ,

If you’re here, then you’re probably aware of the T-shirts that read, “1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual” It’s a satirical garment we’ve referred to before on Drozbot in relation to surveillance culture. But our thinking now is that the current state of the world requires something more messy, less didactic, yet equally dark and unhinged. Something more Philip K Dick perhaps?

It seems incredible that Dick’s multiple visions of our future continue to be as prophetic today as they were at their inception. For instance, with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump we’re facing a typical Dickian rift in reality that could easily be a plotline to match Time Out of Joint. Corrupt, self-serving leadership giving rise to a pressing need for voices of dissent to be heard above the agenda driven media – Radio Free Albemuth anyone? A simulacra of a president with no seeming referent? A seething pile of hyperreality that’s left us all feeling anxious and alienated?

How about increased robotics with machines in the service industry appearing in ever more friendly, more humanoid guises? How long then before automated psychiatrists are giving their human clients counselling as per The Preserving Machine? Or, in a more ambivalent forerunner of the Internet of Things, how soon before we’re arguing with machines about our failure to pay a opening fee, as per the automated doors in Ubik?

The key theme that the author never relinquished, no matter how destabilising the landscapes he created, was heart. There’s a famous PDK quote that goes, “A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake.” Something we should all learn from. With the empathy box, in the ever relevant Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the trials of the embattled Mercer and the blurred lines generated between humans and the ‘feeling’ machines of that book, Philip K Dick blazed a trail that we’re still feeling our way along today. At least, with the growing political outrage and anti-capitalistic sentiment, there’s a sense that working together is the only way to mend a tear in reality before it gets any bigger.

Tags: , , , , , ,

After recently witnessing a pig carcass be portioned, while the man wielding the knives and saws bemoaned the fact that mass production of meat was leading to the end of the high street butcher, thoughts in these parts turn to the future of food production.

Not wanting to come over all ‘The Modern Parents’ in Viz, but the sustainability of meat as a source of protein is something that niggles around the edges of anyone looking to the future. We’ve mentioned it here on Drozbot before, but this single industry outstrips vehicle emissions as the prime producer of green house gases. Them’s the facts, even before we get into the more ethical question of how we use psychological denial to disassociate ourselves from all the mechanisation that goes into slaughtering and packaging meat, or even producing milk. (Something that Melanie Joy has dug much further into via her concept of Carnism.)

Tomorrow’s food production is also something that Korean film director Boon Joon-Ho has dealt with previously in his film adaptation of Jacques Lob’s Snowpiercer. In this the proletariat third-class passengers on a train snaking around the globe, were fed via processed insects, whereas fish and vegetable production were reserved for those in first class. Now, with Okja, Joon-Ho has brought the issue of sustenance front and centre. It’s a tale of a genetically modified ‘super pig’ and its relationship with one little girl who wants to save it from mass consumption.

While talk of 3D printed meat is still in the experimental and hugely expensive stage of development, and the Earl Grey tea replicators of Star Trek merely a pipe dream, perhaps there’s a much simpler way we can take control of our carnivorous palates. True, if we all turn vegetarian or vegan overnight we’ll effectively have to rethink all of the historic domesticated breeds. But, when you place the future of the entire Ecosystem against the continuation of, say, the Suffolk Sheep, then perhaps it’s time to get a sense of perspective. At least Okja’s arrival in three days time will provide some much needed food for thought.

Tags: , , , , ,