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Phillip K. Dick Tribute Fortnight

The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo award winning novel, is back on Amazon and provides a good opportunity to review his views on robots, ethics, machine learning, the Turing test, and the IoT. Philip K. Dick is such a presence in science fiction that he is often referred to simply by his initials PDK. PDK is best known for his short form writing: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which spawned the Blade Runner universe, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, which became Total Recall (both the 1990 stunner and the 2012 turkey), Minority Report, Second Variety, which was made into the movie Screamers, plus dozens more. There is currently an PDK anthology streaming, Philip K. Dick’s: Electric Dreams" on Amazon that is mining his 120+ short stories. Robots were featured in many of his stories, falling into three categories. One, where people discovered that they or loved ones might be robots, the second, where non-anthropomorphic robots threatened or confounded human protagonists, and the third with all of the above. While The Man in the High Castle was PDK’s only novel to win a Hugo (possibly because it had both the imagination that makes PDK relevant today AND a fully comprehensible plot, which was often lacking in his hurriedly written, meth-addiction amplified fiction), Ubik is considered his classic novel. We will start the week with a review of Ubik, which features smart houses and an IoT that is not as user friendly as we had hoped for. Along the way, we’ll use Second Variety to illustrate machine learning, return to Blade Runner for a discussion of the Turing test, and end with a slideshow of the robots of PDK.

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