This summer we will be reading Philip K. Dick's classic science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book that was made into the influential and provocative Hollywood film, Blade Runner. What fun! Here we have the New Student Reading Project equivalent of a Summer Blockbuster! A good book and a good movie.
We get to read about the "androids" and watch the "replicants" together while pondering and discussing and debating the essential existential question: "What does it mean to be human?"
The book and film offer us the opportunity to explore both our future and our past. Written forty-two years ago in 1968--a time well before personal computers and the Internet--the book is set in the not-so-distant future of 2021, a mere 11 years from now. It depicts a bleak world decimated by a nuclear holocaust in which most of the Earth's living animals have been destroyed. But the book also envisions a world that offers the hope of a better life gained through the benefits of space travel (emigration to Mars) and artificial intelligence (robots as workers and servants). Technology giveth, and Technology taketh away.
The original version of the film was released in 1982, just before digital special effects began to dominate modern movie-making. It is a visually stunning film, set in a dark and dreary, rainy and smoky Los Angeles. The year is 2019. The film's story is derived from Dick's book. They share a lot of DNA, but they are separate and distinct works of art. Both are now considered icons of modern popular culture.
Join us here in July and August as you read this book. My guest authors and I will be posting information about the book, the film, the Reading Project, and Cornell throughout the summer and we will gladly try to answer any questions that you have.
And to the Cornell Class of 2014, there is only one thing to say to you:
"Emigrate or degenerate!"