Posts Tagged 'Philip K Dick'

So why are you here? No, seriously. Did my government send you to help update their file on me? It’s a conspiracy I tells ya! A conspiracy! Which is all very useful as July is shaping up to be a scorching summer of paranoid sweats here in the UK. First up, the provocative Utopia returns for a second series on Channel 4. Despite the show inevitably lacking unsettling mystery – we all know where Jessica Hyde is now – it’ll no doubt make up for the short-fall with a fresh, infectious dose of unhinged interconnections.

At the start of last year I compared the original series to the quality once seen in the BBC’s Edge of Darkness and, as if to generate a perfect opportunity to compare and contrast, BBC 4 have obligingly rescheduled that whole slice of duplicitous magical realism starting tomorrow. While registering on the less whacked-out side of the spectrum, it’s still a chilling, fictional consideration of the shadowy world of the nuclear industry.

Maybe it’s a personal thing but I’ve always preferred my conspiracies as way out as possible, yet with enough meat on them to leave you fearing for your sanity should you ever research the connections they purport to make. Which does result in a very fine line as far as artistic appreciation is concerned. For instance, the Mel Gibson helmed Conspiracy Theory is a definite miss. As is Dan Brown’s horribly sanitised Davinci Code series. However, head back to the late 1960s/early 1970s – and the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination – and you’ll find the well-spring for the seminal Illuminatus Trilogy (Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson), Erik Von Däniken’s wonderfully left-field theories on alien intervention in our culture and, last but not least, Philip K Dick’s vision of a totalitarian state under the rule of Richard Nixon (Radio Free Albemuth – recently adapted for film). Collectively there’s enough within these to keep you second guessing for a month of Sundays. Just make sure you don’t let the fretfulness spill over into our current world of internet surveillance, spy bots, agenda driven news feeds, democratic capitals investing in water canons

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Hitch Hikers

Webbytings, or the ‘Internet of Things’ to coin the official moniker, have been in the news of late. Possibly the product of a capitalist realisation that with the Net making stuff redundant – CDs, films, books, entertainment in general – economies are in need of more, new, exciting… stuff! Which is the virtual gift horse with perfectly rendered teeth for anyone interested in extrapolating ideas. While technophile sites like Boing Boing offer open source access to nested thermostats, a deeper, sometimes darker side to house-bound tech undermines the foundations.

Philip K Dick’s ongoing narrative of smart stuff displaying all the capriciousness of humanity is an obvious blueprint for a slew of domestic tales. Just think about Joe Chip’s argument with his apartment door in Ubik, or the petulant air car in The Game Players of Titan, the psychoanalytical insights of the Johnny cab in Now Wait for Last Year or a myriad other examples. Play this along the SF timeline and you swiftly reach all the inept robotics of Douglas Adams’ Sirius Cybernetic Corporation. Nudge a bit further and we’re in the populist realms of The Simpsons and Ultrahouse 3000.

The more sinister side to smart houses – as voiced by Pierce Brosnan above – tends to lean towards an evil and controlling AI – Demon Seed played out in the homestead as seen in ARI by Arthur Choupin. But while machine intelligence remains elusive, the darker side of human nature – i.e. insidious hacking – is a plausible and depressing possibility.

A man’s house is his castle? Perhaps , “a person’s abode is their secure data enclave” will soon be more apt.

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