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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection - David F. Dufty Rating: 3.5* of fiveThe Book Description: In late January 2006, a young robotocist on the way to Google headquarters lost an overnight bag on a flight somewhere between Dallas and Las Vegas. In it was a fully functional head of the android replica of Philip K. Dick, cult science-fiction writer and counterculture guru. It has never been recovered.In a story that echoes some of the most paranoid fantasies of a Dick novel, readers get a fascinating inside look at the scientists and technology that made this amazing android possible. The author, who was a fellow researcher at the University of Memphis Institute of Intelligent Systems while the android was being built, introduces readers to the cutting-edge technology in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sculpture that came together in this remarkable machine and captured the imagination of scientists, artists, and science-fiction fans alike. And there are great stories about Dick himself—his inspired yet deeply pessimistic worldview, his bizarre lifestyle, and his enduring creative legacy. In the tradition of popular science classics like Packing for Mars and The Disappearing Spoon, How to Build an Android is entertaining and informative—popular science at its best.My Review: ANOTHER year-old LibraryThing Early Reviewers win! Oh the shame, the shame!If you don't know who Philip K. Dick is, well first of all what are you doing being friends with me, and second, this book will read like a novel whose main joke is about something you don't understand. Like "ain't nobody got time for that" if you've never seen the memes.I read this book with a sort of befuddled sensation. I liked it, I even thought young Dufty was a decent prose stylist. But, I kept wondering, why on earth does this book need to exist? Twenty-six United States dollars for a 250-page exploration of the whys and wherefores of an android that no longer exists, can't be seen and therefore exists only in descriptions such as this that will make more sense to geeks than to thee and me. (Well, me anyway.)Dick casts a long shadow in our world, Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly and Total Recall being among the movies made from his bleak, unsettlingly predictive fiction. He was a weird man, he wrote weird books, and thought strange thoughts that were way far out in front of the culture. Pretty much nailed it, though, did our Phil. It makes reading his work strangely current.But here, Dufty (who was a bit player at best and a bystander if we're honest) tells of the obsessive fascination Dick has for the seriously geeky boffins who spend their paid work hours trying to make SF in to reality. It is astonishing to me that they get paychecks for doing this stuff. They'd do it for free, sleep in the office and eat Cheetos and hot dogs, you just know they would so long as the parts bin is open and the computers come on when they need them. It's a slightly disturbing sensation to watch the boys (all males, natch) play in the sandbox and create something so (apparently, it's vanished so you and I will never know) lifelike because they just want to.I am interested in the way our material culture is manipulated and massaged and transformed by science's application to technology. If you are too, this book will keep the pages turning. If you're a Dickian cultist, this book will make for some riveting reading. Absent those interests, there are better ways to spend your eyeblinks and your spondulix.