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The Action Is at the Interface: Philip K. Dick as Interologist (or, how I learned to stop worrying and trust the Liminal Imaginary of PKD).

"The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and
"What constitutes the authentic human being?"--Philip K. Dick

"Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can
always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to
happen."--Marshall McLuhan


Introduction

Arguably the most celebrated, critiqued, imitated, and commodified science fiction writer of all time, Philip K. Dick (PKD) is certainly one of the most enigmatic literary figures of the 20th Century. No matter how one positions PKD, his stories continue to inspire new interpretations and elaborations across a broad range of genres and media. This article elaborates on a few key themes that align with an interological outlook, including the relationship between self and other, between humans and machines (or, perhaps, the biological and the technological) and a perennial concern about entropy vis-a-vis various sorts of social, political and environmental degradation and decay. These and other related themes and tropes have been discussed in some excellent PKD scholarship, including Eric Link's Understanding Philip K. Dick (2010) and Umberto Rossi's The Twisted Worlds of Philip K. Dick (2011).

PKD was fascinated with the nature of interfaces as borderlines and in-betweens. The worlds he envisioned are replete with liminal characters and ideas that push his plotlines: people, things, times and places. In stories long and short he wove together his interest in philosophy, psychoanalysis, religion and spirituality, communication theory and medium theory, genetic and social engineering, and cyborgism and post-humanism, among other things. He had a philosophical bent, but was also a consummate prankster, a kind of post-modern speculative absurdist. Like any good writer he played with words, ideas, metaphors and images.

However the worlds he envisioned--alien civilizations, alternate realities, counter-factual histories, and hyper-technologized futures--settle into the psyche as vaguely recalled moments of everyday life. What often appear, at first pass, to be the most outlandish and impossible futures, are glimpsed in the peripheries of the present, those uncomfortably familiar features of modern, mediated life. PKD's work illustrates the folly of worlds replete with not-quite-ready-for-prime-time technologies of various kinds that are highly consequential to the fate of the individual and society alike. They are worlds fundamentally altered, inflected, even infected by the 'sociocultural speed-up' associated with various processes of technological innovation.

In the process, PKD offers some surprisingly accurate prognostications regarding how humanity might proceed as we run headlong into a future unfolding superficially by our own design. Indeed, in so many stories the direction of the species is cast as only the partially-predictable outcome of an emerging collection of powerful technologies increasingly dictating the nature of everyday life. These are usually given for free or sold en masse by a government, religious institution, or corporation (some of earthly origin, some not). PKD thus wrote with a dual sense of urgency. First, he was regularly racing against the clock, immersed in deadline-driven writing marathons, as he spent most of his writing career at or near the poverty level. The quickening pace of social and technological change that he witnessed prompted a second exigence: will humanity survive, or more to his point, how and to what degree will the human survive in the jet age, the space age, the age of genetic manipulation, the computer age?

Self-medicating with prescription drugs along with the medium of the written word to slow down the world around him, he published 44 novels and more than 120 short stories between 1951 and his death in 1982. If that output is not impressive enough, consider the feats of writing 6 novels and four short stories in two years, as he did in the late-1950s, and 15 novels in 4 years in the mid-1960s. As might be expected, these competing urgencies sometimes resulted in less-than perfect prose. Or as PKD scholar Douglas Mackey suggests "[i]f we want to focus on the microstructures only we will find many unsatisfactory passages and sentences which ask for the intervention of a professional editor" (in Rossi, 2011, p. 4).

A number of interological tropes and themes are readily apparent throughout. Without being explicitly named as such, the two primarily addressed below are addressed among others in Link's Understanding Philip K. Dick (2010). But whereas Link focuses on the narratological aspects of PKD's work, the aim of this project is to provide an initial sampling of some key themes and dialectics related to interfaces as 'transduction zones'--active sites or nexuses of interaction, translation and transformation. These interfaces are usually bridged in some way to fill out the narrative arc. In many cases it is a successful connection or identification sought between the entities or agents involved, with communication technologies mediating affairs and playing highly consequential roles along the way. The most common interological themes highlight interfaces between humans and animals-qua aliens of various kinds, and those between humans and machines (i.e. the 'biological and the technological').

The first section of this essay serves as primer regarding the author's early life, with a description of my own upbringing in a Dickian cold-war context that generated a profound interest in many of the above-mentioned themes and issues found scattered throughout his writing. That first section also demonstrates how PKD became a significant prompt for my own work as an academic who studies the cognitive, political, and sociocultural ramifications of communication technology for a living.

Personal Histories

Tragedy follow PKD his entire life and this seems to have contributed profoundly to his way of seeing and being in the world. Jane, his twin and only sister, died six weeks after a premature birth. She and Philip were born six weeks early. Oddly, and in true Dickian fashion, Jane died on or about her 'due date.' Little Philip was born in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. He came into the world just in time for the great depression and grew up a year or so shy of draft age for WWII. Honing his writing skills during the ramp-up to the cold war, he went to Berkeley in the Fall of 1949 for one semester (dropping out after just two months of study). Presumably, then, he never finished the 'Sci-Fi literature' course which, he claims in numerous writings and interviews to have been the favorite college class he ever took.

Many of PKD's stories deal in some fashion with a third world war (though the exact number is often left unstated, with World War Terminus sometimes used instead). It must have seemed that almost anything could happen, given the already 'hyper-real' nature of life in his particular corner of California. The Red Scare, McCarthyism and the Cold War were in full swing, and colored so many aspects of everyday life. All of this, intertwined with an atavistic notion of a collective unconscious, surely inspired PKD's 'paranoid fiction.'

As PKD reached 'middle-age,' I was a becoming a kid of the Cold War--born in the late-1960s and growing up under the flight line of a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. The main airfield was just a mile or so from my house. The sonic booms of the sleek, swing-winged FB-111s ('FB' for 'Fighter Bombers') faded into the background of experience on their missions escorting the KC-135 tankers. The '111s' afterburners etched lines of black smoke across the sky enroute to provide security during refueling of the massive B-52 Stratofortresses flying out of several other SAC bases in the region. The big bombers' task was to roughly follow the dotted lines of the arctic circle on their 24/7 'Operation Chrome Dome' missions from 1960 to 1968--always ready to drop their thermonuclear payloads on any targets inside the USSR deemed worthy. (1)

The sights and sounds, the reports and rumors, our imaginations running in overdrive, all of it was part of the ambient background of my youth. While the jet engines and sonic booms rarely, if ever, interrupted our sleep, my friends and I were kept awake by other incursions. For example, we eagerly entertained all sorts of half-baked stories about something even more sinister in our midst. As far as we knew, while no bomb-laden B-52s were stationed at our base, we were surrounded by enough explosive power to shatter the world...and it was hidden nearby, just under the surface. Indeed, from 1962 to 1965 twelve fully operational Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) were distributed in a large crescent of silos approximately forty-five miles across that nearly encircled our little town. (2)

Unaware that the nuclear missile squadron was decommissioned two years before I was born, my youth was ready-made for a PKD-inspired world. Little bits and pieces of information, some fact-based, most not, intermixed to create a reality for us that seemed at times hyper-real. Stories of 'men in black' in blacked out, or otherwise non-descript trucks and vans (even a few actual black helicopters periodically circling overhead) fed both the discernible pieces of reality and the paranoid delusions surrounding this place we called home. Then in 1982, about when our interest in finding those hidden missile silos started to wane, I accompanied my older brother to the film Bladerunner. I was utterly mesmerized by the story and dazzled by director Ridley Scott's cinematic interpretation of a PKD novel I knew nothing about. If instantly hooked on all things futuristic and cyborgian, I would not have been able to explain what a replicant was at the time. Despite Harrison Ford's already formidable star power, it was such a dark, brooding world interpreted by Ridley Scott, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, and screenwriters David Peoples and Hampton Fancher.

PKD and Scott had a brief meeting in 1981 and the film was released a year later. The author never witnessed the finished product but did see a few test scenes. In October of that year he wrote a letter to an executive at the Ladd production company. Consider this excerpt: "The impact of Blade Runner is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people--and, I believe, on science fiction as a field...Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches Bladerunner...My life and creative work are justified and completed by Bladerunner. Thank you...and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible." In that effusive letter PKD was amiss on just one thing: the initial commercial success of the film. It was, indeed, met with only tepid reception. However, the remainder of the letter was quite prescient since he died before seeing the completed product. Scott and his creative team apparently captured the mise en scene PKD had in mind while writing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: "it was my own internal world...they caught it perfectly."

PKD was referring to the dark, intensely crowded, electrified cityscapes of the 21st Century (the story was set in 2019). The acid rain, the rust, the decay and dilapidation; massive corporations churning out whatever product or service was required to keep life going, or perhaps the simulated appearance of life, with designer drugs and super high-tech liberally administered to maintain the illusion. Genetically-engineered foods, plants, and animals, ersatz humans or 'replicants' with predetermined expiration dates--it was all part of PKD's vision.

Some of that vision had been operating on me at various levels of consciousness early on, growing up adjacent to that SAC base and enthusiastically buying in to those stories of secretly still-in-service nuclear missiles encircling us. (3) I was also acutely aware of the available facts intermixed with the various fictions surrounding events like the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations, Watergate, President Reagan's descent into dementia during his two terms, the Iran-Contra affair and other debacles during his second term. Reagan was, of course, our first actor-turned-president apparently produced for the pages of a PKD novel.

I wrote op-eds in the college newspaper about the sketchy rationale for the first phase of the Gulf War under 'Bush-1' in 1990 (aka 'Operation Desert Shield') that morphed into the combat phase (aka 'Operation Desert Storm'). And I later learned of still more dubious information peddled by government, quasi-corporate, and military actors, including what was eventually revealed to be faulty intel regarding weapons of mass destruction that provided final justification for a second 'Gulf War,' the Iraq War in 2003 (aka 'Operation Iraqi Freedom') under 'Bush-2,' another PKD-esque character operating under the tight control of puppet masters. And after details of secret missions were leaked to the press, related concerns sparked anew during President Obama's tenure surrounding the widespread use of weaponized drones targeting individuals in foreign lands. The use of drones has since ramped up toward full-blown remote control warfare under Donald Trump, yet another ersatz president who finds good company in several PKD tales. Trump, however, falls short of PKD's most memorable antagonists since he lacks the master plan of the nefarious puppet masters usually found there. Indeed, Trump's Presidency so far seems best characterized as a set of disparate tactics devoid of strategy (aside, perhaps from lining his pockets and those of kin and crony). (4)

Interestingly, Trump's use of Twitter retrieves elements of a bygone oral age and ushered in what has been described by several commentators as a 'post-literate' political era. (5) Here again, as if ripped from the pages of a PKD novel like The Simulacra (1964), we're witnessing a woefully ill-equipped, stand-in-leader keeping his funders and political base placated while unnerving the remaining majority of the population with his daily disseminations: everything from kneejerk responses to the latest news item, a decontextualized twist on some statement from a member of the opposition, to the whimsical dreams, desires, fears and insecurities of a man who very likely did not even expect to win the office in the first place. (6)

The preceding contextualizes my fascination with PKD as a Science Fiction writer and a more recent interest in the interological significance of his work. Several recurring themes should already be obvious to the attentive reader: confusion between fact and fiction, between personal thoughts and group-thoughts, the intermixing of conscious and unconscious awareness, and paranoia and potential conspiracy surrounding secret government installations, thermonuclear weapons, and all sorts of questionable actors rendering dubious decisions. (7) The next sections describes two related interological themes I consider central to PKD's peculiar brand of Sci Fi.

Self and Other

This theme concerns PKD's efforts to bridge the phenomenological gap between humans and a variety of 'others.' The first story he ever published was told from the vantage of a common domestic animal, the family dog. He held special affection for animals, cats in particular. This prompted his interest in other minds and ways of being, and laid the groundwork for an informal theory of mind suggesting an emergent, multi-realizable process. (8) Indeed, threaded throughout his writings is the notion that mind-qua-intelligence is a universal phenomenon existing, by matter of degree, in all life. To illustrate his broadly-construed notion of mind, it makes sense to start at the beginning (it is sometimes difficult to discern the time lapse between PKD's completion of an original story and its eventual publication date, as he was prone to 'sit' on stories for years--even a decade delay was not uncommon).

Roog, his first short story, ran just three pages and was published in 1951 in Fantasy and Science Fiction, a popular pulp magazine. In a nutshell, Roog is a phenomenological foray into a dog's day. The four-legged protagonist was a nervous pooch protecting his people. The story, as PKD put it, is about "a dog who imagined that the garbagemen who came every Friday morning were stealing valuable food which the family had carefully stored away in a safe metal container" (PKD, 1978, p. 6). (9) After Roog he spent a good portion of the next three decades developing two of his favorite themes: "The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?" Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?" (PKD, 1978, p. 6).

PKD developed the 'what is human' theme more explicitly, and intimately, in Beyond Lies the Wub (1952), a 10-page short story about the interactions and developing relationship between the human crew of a cargo ship and a pig-like creature indigenous to Mars called a Wub. The crew's mission was to collect and transport a variety of Martian animals slated for human consumption. The Wub was purchased by one of the crew who, along with his mates, soon recognized the intelligence and sensitivity of the Wub, including its telepathic abilities. The captain of the ship, however, saw the Wub only as a tasty meal, and so eventually eats it. However, by ingesting the Wub, the captain's consciousness is supplanted by it, and the story ends in the midst of a friendly dinner conversation between crew members and the now Wub-inhabited captain. PKD casts this as a kind of altruistic body-mind takeover, and the theme of phenomenological, telepathic, even empathic identification or bridging was revisited in a number of short and longer tales throughout PKD's career, including The Zap Gun (1967) and Not by Its Cover (1968).

Considering PKD's work chronologically, or as well as that can be accomplished, Roog and 'The Wub' represent not only the first stories he published, they also provide the opening to something we might call his 'liminal imaginary.' PKD brought so many liminal or borderline beings to life. A liminal being of course being any creature or entity that defies easy placement in a particular category of existence: a ruminating dog, a telepathic, transmigrating alien, a paranoid android, etc. Androids, cyborgs, human-tech hybrids and mutts populate his pages. Then again, when we closely consider the nature of our own being, are these really such ontological oddities?

Long before the philosopher Thomas Nagel wondered if it was possible for a human being to know what it's like to be a bat, PKD concocted and played with all sorts of phenomenological, ontological, and epistemological puzzles. The Latin serio ludere means literally, 'to play seriously' and we find a blend of playful and more serious attempts by PKD to bridge the experiential chasm between mind-bodies of different kinds. He was, in short, fascinated by the different ways of knowing and experiencing that might be possible through various sorts of physical composition, altered states of consciousness, and personal history. To be sure, these all contribute to the 'realities' we inhabit. So, a kind of phenomenological diversity, and with it, a respect for species diversity (including technological diversity) was almost sacred to PKD.

Such respect seems to have been predicated upon an appreciation for varied modes of seeing, being, and thinking. I detect in PKD's corpus a blend of ontological and epistemological respect as well, the sort advocated by Martin Buber and his I/thou relationship. Other interpretations of PKD, both literary and cinematic, suggest the same. For example, Buber's notion is voiced eloquently by Replicant leader Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer in the final scene of Blade Runner). After he saves Rick Deckard (the Bladerunner played by Ford) from what would have been a fall to certain death, Batty realizes he loves life, any kind of life, and makes sure to preserve it. But PKD didn't just play with the nature of human being, he toyed with being as a universal phenomenological concept, with multiple realities always already in play at any given moment, in any given place. And, again, this was not just a matter of intellectual play:
[T]he problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because
today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured
by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups,
political groups--and the electronic hardware exists by which to
deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the
viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old
daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. (Dick, 1975, p.
261)


The Technological and the Biological (or, are you a Replicant or a Replican?)

From very early on in the development of our species humans have integrated themselves with 'apparatuses' of different sorts. Long before the invention of formal education, Taylorism, or Ford's assembly lines, our hunter-gatherer forebears learned to distribute and delegate work to accomplish both time-sensitive and protracted tasks with the help of different sorts of discrete, interacting, or more broadly systemic machines. Regarding the latter, consider the 'mega-machines' described so well by Lewis Mumford: the impressive design and logistics governing the renewable power of slaves in the construction of the pyramids in Egypt, or NASA's Mission Control room (which, in the early 1960s, was set up to ensure a pair of human eyes on every crucial gauge and valve reading voltage, temperature, pressure, resistance, etc.). It would seem, from Cairo to Cape Canaveral, that the line between the human and the machine was designed to be a blurry one.

As was the case in his own life, it is not uncommon for PKD's characters to try and counteract the fear and paranoia endemic to their realities with the help of various kinds of 'media,' whether they be broad, systemic apparatuses, discrete machines, or designer drugs. The semi-autobiographical A Scanner Darkly (1977) afforded PKD the opportunity to comment more explicitly than any previous work on his own paranoia regarding the conduct of government and law enforcement agencies in this regard. In A Scanner Darkly the main character uses a 'scramble suit' to conceal his identity and infiltrate a police station. He also becomes addicted to a powerful psychoactive drug called 'Substance D' which splits the functioning of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Advances in neuroscience since PKD's death suggest that separating the left hemisphere (the region of the neocortex associated with sequence, logic and analysis), from the right side (the region associated with holistic intuition and pattern recognition), would not work in the way the author imagined, but he may have not been too far off.

However we needn't engage in such fanciful guesses of that sort since we are already approximating the twisted worlds of PKD. To wit, his use of telepathic 'precogs' by the Pre-Crime Division in The Minority Report (1956) is fast becoming quaint given the impressive power of 'predictive analytics.' Indeed, recent developments around the globe have raised serious concerns over surveillance and control enabled by artificial intelligence, big data, and machine-learning. Facial recognition is one of the latest innovations thrust into service without sufficient testing, public debate, legislative oversight, or regulation. These and other related developments should put PKD's ponderings front and center since he offered valuable insight into where we might be headed--or, perhaps more accurately, where such technologies might be taking us.

As for a near-universal drug culture, some readers may be surprised to learn that Americans are among the most medicated populations on the planet. Or we might recall that the entire Russian Olympic team was barred from participating in the 2018 winter games after several dozen athletes failed drug doping tests (ultimately, a charge of 'state-sponsored doping' was applied). So, as with our willingness to become entangled with machines and hi-tech, the human species has long incorporated drugs (i.e. perceptual, experiential, physically-enabling media technologies). Aspirin and Caffeine, Vicodin and Viagra, Wellbutrin and Zoloft--pain reducing, anxiety suppressing, attention-focusing, and ability-enhancing drugs have long been part of our species' effort to bootstrap and extend the capacities of mind and body.

PKD's fascination with the relationship between self and other and his already, at the time, cutting-edge, if implicit theory of mind dovetailed into what would become a core theme driving his fiction: an interest in discovering what, if anything, makes us human. In two successive and thematically similar short stories, The Nanny (1953) and The Progeny (1954), he prompts readers to consider how soon we might delegate the raising of our children to anthropomorphic machines and other technological monstrosities. Readers are prompted to weigh the practicality against the potential folly in a cultural shift of that sort. For PKD, however, it was more a matter of when, not if. Indeed, I've always detected a certain sense of inevitability in his work. Much like Marshall McLuhan, PKD had a knack for seeing what's coming--sometimes with uncanny detail, at other times only generally, and with forgivable technical imprecision (for example his androids and fake animals looked real enough, but when damaged or opened for repair, they were described in a way that suggested cheap animatronics).

Of course, our contemporary reality is much more nuanced, as the 'insides' of Watson and Siri and Alexa and Google's AI construct (and other comparable 'intelligent agents' and 'digital assistants') are more than just highly complex technological manifestations. To be what they are and do what they do, their underlying algorithms must have access to a staggering amount of data that allows them to reach out into the world--including out and into every one of us who participate in even the most mundane social behaviors, consumer activity and search queries online. (10)

While he died about a decade before the Internet as we know it today 'went live,' PKD was certainly aware of the growing concern and trepidation surrounding something as mundane as television. He also lived to see the diffusion of video games into popular culture, with the attendant rise of those little interactive virtual realities (however low-res at the time) that made such 'simple' games as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders so compelling. Indeed, concerning the progressive incorporation of communication-qua-perceptual technologies in everyday life, in 2015 US-based toy manufacturer Mattel was set to release a digital assistant intended for infants' and toddlers' bedrooms just in time for the holiday season. Dubbed Aristotle, the Alexa-like smart speaker was slated to come out of the box with a nurturing voice and soothing light effects ready to go...and ready to listen, and learn, and guide the habits and practices of the infant it was assigned to.

Aristotle was ultimately withdrawn from the market after consumer advocacy groups like the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CFCC) registered enough of a stir to convince Mattel's execs that it would not be in their best interest to move forward with the product's release. Then again, as PKD would no doubt opine, isn't the broad dissemination of such things just a matter of time? Many modern consumers tend to be enamored with all things new--particularly where high-tech is concerned. Curiously, around the time Mattel cancelled the release of its smart speaker for little kids the American Academy of Pediatrics essentially threw in the towel after more than a decade of limiting screen-media use for very young children. (11) The space between humans and machines indeed appears to be closing fast. PKD's first published novel, Solar Lottery (1955) features an android pretending to be human. The 'who (or what) is human' question was, of course, one way he prompted his readers to consider the nature of racism and discrimination. Unfortunately, more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery in the United States, much work remains. To be sure, ontogeny (i.e. being born human), still does not guarantee one's humanity. With recent spikes in homophobia, xenophobia and nationalism around the world, basic human rights are experiencing renewed jeopardy.

The android/replicant trope also suggests we are always, and already some kind of copy, simulacra, or ersatz manifestation. Sociologist Erving Goffman argued that for each role there is a self-image. It "virtually awaits the individual entering a position; he [sic] need only conform to the pressures on him and he will find a me ready-made for him" (1961, pp. 87-88, emphases added). If much of Jean Paul Sartre's existence precedes essence notion still applies, the hailing and interpellation begins well before birth for so many today. In the USA, at least, this usually means blue bibs and footballs for the boys, and pink sheets and parasols for the girls. In other words, so many of us are, like PKD's replicants, 'ready-made.'

With some exceptions, replicants, robots and androids are generally cast by PKD as beings largely unaware of their own drives and impulses. It is notable that Steve Jobs tended to view his massive client base in this way. To be sure, the success of the Apple empire depended on it, given the pre-conscious affinities and effects of the entire 'iSuite' (all, essentially, mind tools that function as modifiers of thought, perception and behavior). The iPod, iPhone and a good portion of iTunes' offerings have been intertwining with the human biological component for almost two decades now. From the buildup of thumb and finger muscles to the subtle rewiring of neural pathways, the total mind-body is profoundly affected when such bio-technological couplings are regularly maintained.

And so while phenomenology is the study of how experience translates to perception of and consciousness in the world, we seem to be moving fast toward a post-phenomenological/post-human situation. In addition to some serious concerns about the systemic nature of these technologies, it became obvious to fans and critics alike after Jobs' death that he did not want his own children subjected to this kind of augmentation. Writing in The New York Times, journalist Nick Bilton recalls how he once put it to Jobs that his kids must really love the iPod. But to the interviewer's surprise, Jobs replied: "They haven't used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home." (Bolton, 2014, p. 3). Bilton continues: "I'm sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs' household was like a nerd's paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow. Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close" (ibid). It would seem that regular interfacing with powerful technologies was not just a core interest and concern of PKD.

Reality certainly can be stranger than fiction because the Jobs' interview describes a scene straight out of one of PKD's stories, yet even more sinister, since Jobs was hardly the only tech guru in Silicon Valley harboring concerns about extended engagement with digital technology. A growing number report worrying about the long-term effects of ubiquitous interfacing and involvement with the hard and software that is mobile touchscreen technology. In that same article Chris Anderson, robotics entrepreneur and former editor of Wired magazine, reported setting strict time limits and parental controls on every device in his home: "My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists. They say that none of their friends have the same rules. That's because we have seen the dangers of technology first hand. I've seen it in myself, I don't want to see that happen to my kids" (ibid) (12)

These two cases conjure other PKD stories, including We Can Build You (1972) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) which address the qualified question: what, separate from our biology, can be considered human? In Bladerunner, the cinematic adaptation of 'Do Androids,' the Tyrell corporation manufactures replicants. By the end of the story the company motto: 'More Human Than Human,' seems apropos. Bland, trickling, alexithymic reactions characterize so many of the biologically-human players in PKD's stories. This condition, or something very much like it, was one of his greatest fears for the human species--both in and out of his fiction. Indeed, with the continued blending and blurring of the line between the human and the machine, how many of us are becoming functionally less human? If often unaware of what drives them, his treatment of various kinds of 'life' in so many stories suggests many animals, aliens, robots and replicants come off as more human, even more humane than most of the humans they encounter (Alexithymia is characterized by an inability to generate appropriate emotional responses, nor read them in others).

Predating 'Do Androids' by fifteen years, The Defenders (1953) is the novel that launched PKD's almost three-decade fascination with the relationship between 'human nature' and the nature of machines. It also marks the beginning of his obsession with the nature of existence and other ontological questions. He loved prodding readers to wonder what is real and what is illusory. And again, since decade-long delays between some of PKD's original writings and their eventual publication dates was not uncommon, much of this is speculative, however 'Do Androids' very likely overlapped in PKD's mind with We Can Build You, since the latter was written in 1962 but not published until 1972.

We Can Build You includes extended dialogue between various human players and 'The Lincoln,' a replicant or android copy of president Abraham Lincoln. Many of these conversations surround the conduct and fate of biological humans, and the ersatz president ultimately comes off as more interesting, enlightened and empathic than the humans he interacts with. As for the term 'blade runner,' it is never used in 'Do Androids.' Also unlike the novel, in the film Ford's character does not own any animals--real or fake. The original story dealt in large measure with the private life of Rick Deckard (the would-be blade runner) who was little more than a beat cop-turned-detective pushed into the unsavory task of hunting down and eliminating errant replicants (genetically-designed, biological androids). The title of the film is very appropriate, however, in that it evokes liminal, hard-to-detect characters walking the line between two idealized halves: the organic, emotional, spontaneous components of human existence, and the cool, calculated rationality of an intentionally-designed post-human construct. It is notable that William Burroughs wrote a cinematic treatment of the 1974 novel The Bladerunner written by Alan Nourse. But whatever the origin and intent of the film's moniker, it nicely evokes PKD's general theme of encounters, interfaces, and ostensibly inevitable intermingling of humans and machines.

For so many of PKD's characters a progressive loss of the 'Cartesian/Modernist' conception of mind (and, by extension, of personal identity) manifest as a kind of existential fear. That feeling of uncertainty and confusion is also palpable in the multiple accounts of PKD's private life, so the replicant is perhaps best read as a pluripotent metaphor: we never really know who is in our midst, or even who or what we are...or might become. Self-doubt and doubt of others is an unmistakable and recurrent theme threaded from PKD's first short stories to his unfinished novel and makes for some gripping and decidedly thought-provoking interological moments.

And while his writing is often infused with a gentle humanism, PKD battled a nagging misanthropic bent. Given this and other peculiarities, he has been dubbed a 'post-modern humanist.' But in the end, and however elusive or illusory for some of his characters, he championed the freedom of the individual. In his stories, as in his life, he harbored a visceral phobia of collectives and crowds. A recurring fear concerned the madness of group-think writ large: unchecked, unreflective popular belief. This is likely the root of PKD's fascination with early-20th Century fascism and the various species of nativist and nationalist dogma that blossomed in its wake.

I'd say the author's humanism worked best at the micro level when he explored the inner life of individuals. It is at the macro level of collective experience that things got scary for him. In this regard, Scottish author and journalist Charles Mackay's signature expression comes to mind: "Men...go mad in herds, while they only regain their senses slowly, and one by one." The key implication of Mackay's statement is that people never really 'get better' without some time to reflect on and directly sense the world around them--like a lost wisdom of the body that slowly seeps back in. (13)

This leads to another feature of PKD's work that bolsters and clarifies an interological outlook: the mass techno-cultures he envisioned--those hyper-technologized societies almost entirely devoid of contexts affording individual (i.e. relatively unmediated) reflective moments. However, the technology-saturated and over-crowded contexts of his stories have, in large measure, come to pass. With some form of information, messaging and/or advertising almost always within eye or ear-shot, few spaces (in terms of both place and time) remain to 'gather oneself.' Deckard, Batty, the Lincoln's interlocutors...they only 'heal' after they either leave the herd, or see the herd being thinned around them. (14)

Like so many of PKD's characters, we seamlessly succumb to the logic of the systems we are born into. It began long ago, with an automatic abiding by the rules and regulations of nature. At first an organic and analog logic, when all beings and things, from sun, shadow, moon and tide, to migrating fish and birds, to rooster and wolf either showed or sounded out the status of the world. We moved from a circadian rhythm to that of the town crier and clock. And from there on to the first 'mass-produced' news reports and revelation...from atoms to electrons, from the mechanical and analog to the electric and digital. Then came CNN and such, with more blurring of the line between an 'objective reality' detailed in the news and the subjective realities we each inhabit. We soon then got the itch to melt and morph the objective and subjective on their way to the Web. GoogleNews' gets down to a 15-second 'news cycle'...and now Twitter is the one to beat.

In other words, digital information processing popularized with the Internet did much to codify the 'simultaneity of event experience' as a new and powerful life logic. And while it is still too early to tell, we should wonder to what extent our digital appendages in hand and pocket will continue this trend of governing the coupling and uncoupling of collective, simultaneous event experience, collective memory, communal, emotional responses and the like. However subtle or stringent, PKD abhorred any sort of technological determinism. Yet his stories trigger a strange ambivalence for many readers. Is the future of humanity one of resistance and rebellion against these techno-media logics? Or, will we ultimately acquiescence and accept the urge to merge? As for myself, I wonder regularly: how many each day stop worrying and learn to love the algorithm?

Conclusion: The Entropic Worlds of PKD
It is my job to create universes...[a]nd I have to build them in such a
way that they do not fall apart two days later...[H]owever, I will
reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart.
I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters
in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos.
There should be more of it. Do not believe--and I am dead serious when
I say this--do not assume that order and stability are always good, in
a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way
to new life and the birth of new things...[A]nd it is the authentic
human being...the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back,
absorb, and deal with the new (Dick, 1978, p. 1).


Like any interologist, media ecologist or anthropologist worth their salt, PKD endeavored to shift the locus of attention from objects and entities to the action happening in-between. Often, this was accomplished through some kind of human-tech coupling. The basic idea is captured nicely in the media ecological expression: a medium is a process, not a thing.

Spatial limitations here prohibit in-depth comment on the many entropic events and processes in PKD's peculiar brand of science fiction. I'll conclude, therefore, with just a brief sketch of the interplay between entropy (i.e. disarray, decay, death) and negentropy (i.e. order, adaptation, life) often found there. With some hapless repairman usually struggling against the decay and dilapidation, this unsteady dialectic was so central to his work. I mentioned above a kind of phenomenological and by extension ontological and epistemological respect embedded throughout PKD's corpus. In addition to channeling Buber's 'I/Thou' outlook and attendant prescription for action, he would have likely appreciated the Czech proverb: Learn a New Language and get a New Soul. Whether that sentiment entered common parlance before or after the apocryphal Indigenous American admonition to walk a mile in someone else's moccasins, the general idea is clear, and it makes good sense.

PKD's appreciation for non-human-kinds was given voice in his first published stories (Roog, 1951 and Beyond Lies the Wub, 1952). In subsequent stories we find characters endeavoring to stem various sorts of social, political, and environmental decay. He never settled on any particular philosophical approach, political platform or conventional religious dogma in his life and work. Instead, he remained wide open to any new or different kind of being that might reveal some useful mode of perception, some way out of the twisted, topsyturvy worlds he imagined.

I've argued in this article that PKD's particular brand of 'Philosophical Sci-Fi' is invaluable at this socio-historical moment because it concerns that fundamental human quest for meaning and value in a world where such notions seem increasingly difficult to pin down. The sheer pace and scale of social and technological change throughout the three decades he wrote must have been dizzying to say the least. And this undoubtably accounts for part of PKD's proclivity for the pharmaceutical binge. But if there is plenty of individual and mass drug use (and abuse) mediating the action in his stories, communication-qua-information technologies of various kinds almost always play central roles.

The use of drugs and media as plot devices prompt readers to consider the advantages and liabilities associated with living a 'virtual' vs 'real' life, or perhaps weigh the pros and cons of having a physical body. PKD even asks us to consider whether a particular neurosis or mental illness could at times be the most effective or advantageous way to proceed. For example, Vulcans Hammer (1960) is a novel about two competing artificial intelligences--the older and newer models that both become progressively more paranoid as the story unfolds. The key plot twist concerns the way humans must become paranoid as well in order to effectively combat the paranoia-driven machines. Thus, both humans and machines struggle in their quest to survive by navigating that notoriously fine line between sanity and insanity.

Indeed, a collective turn toward paranoia is key to survival in so many PKD tales, where the technologies themselves are often key players--protagonists and antagonists alike. In the latter scenario, a human protagonist must learn to think and perceive beyond the techno logics, grammars, and other rule system their worlds are built around. Plot lines are driven in large measure by powerful technological systems that prescribe rules of action, indicate right and wrong behavior, offer rewards, exact punishments, and generally dictate what's possible and impossible for the players involved.

Media Ecology is a field of study that obsesses over the various ways technological systems and apparatuses impose their potent yet hard to detect logics, grammars and rules on the humans who use them: from the holistic, inherently communal nature of orality/aurality, to the individual contexts generated by the linear-sequential format of printed text, to the content and contexts of consumption that is kids' television, modern digital news production, web search and social media algorithms, even the 'operating system' that is the military-industrial complex.

Put simply, PKD was obsessed with the consequential effects that spin out of the affordances and constraints of the technologies he wrote about. He was most intrigued by the mundane and more subtle cultural norms and commonplaces generated by various communication technologies--the effects of which are almost never immediate and therefore defy detection. Of course, they must first be recognized before they can be dealt with (i.e. short-circuited, circumvented, or, at the very least, questioned). Whether through the use of drugs, media, or some exotic alien technology, the successful protagonist discovers and cultivates a kind of 'all-at-once integral awareness' to borrow another term from McLuhan. (15)

From PKD's early inklings on this and other themes in 'The Wub' (1952), to his full-blown auto-biographical musings in the posthumously-published Exegesis (2011), we find a litany of conditions detailed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) -from mundane depressions, narcissistic tendencies, anxieties and paranoias, to the most debilitating and profound neuro-psychological pathologies. Surprisingly, perhaps, is the latter which often turn out to be 'evolutionarily advantageous' in PKD's stories. These include borderline personality disorder, multiple personality disorder, full-blown narcissism, schizophrenia and the like. Will the emerging 'selection pressures' of our digital worlds render a scenario of this sort the new reality--a 'new normal' so to speak? Only time will tell. What's clear is that, with gaming and Internet addiction now included in the latest APA manual (the DSM-5), it is probably just a matter of time, and probably sooner than later, when a distinctly PKD-esque condition like mnemophrenia is catalogued there as well. The next question, of course, is: do we have enough time?

PKD was an autodidact--a student of history, literature, and science--as well as an enthusiastic etymologist. His career reflects an ongoing effort to detect meaning in the in-betweens and transduction zones of everyday life (from the smallest interstices found between human neurons and their electro-digital counterparts, to the broadest temporal or experiential gaps). Like existential laboratories, his stories and novels allowed him to experiment with encounters between different forms of life, often featuring new kinds of intelligence and unique ways of knowing. He played with novel modes of perception, information processing, and pattern recognition that might help any given character or cause. Whether solving a particular and immediately pressing problem, addressing a broader social exigence, or perhaps saving the world in some epic struggle for survival gained by establishing balance between warring factions (human, machines, aliens, etc.), or finding a precarious equilibrium between nature and technology to help the natural environment regain the semblance of homeostasis.

Finally, for now, PKD poses the corporeal-cognitive question again and again in his writings: can the senses be trusted? If one opts to listen, he still speaks to us: be wary of the advantages and efficiencies predicted, registered, or otherwise sensed by our machines. While they might not noticeably affect some people in a particular context, Philip K. Dick urges us to look, to listen and to feel--to pay attention to our intuitive sides and resist ignoring the many slow-motion technological, social and ecological disasters unfolding in our midst. (16)

Correspondence to:

Robert MacDougall

Communication Department

Curry College

1071 Blue Hill Avenue

Milton, Massachusetts, USA

Email: robert_macdougall@curry.edu

References

Bilton, N. (2014). Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent. The New York Times. September 10. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/fashion/steve-jobs-apple-was-a-low-tech-parent.html

Davis, E. (2005). Philip K. Dick's divine interference. Retrieved from: https://techgnosis.com/philip-k-dicks-divine-interference/

Dick, P.K. (1968). Do androids dream of electric sheep? New York: Doubleday

Dick, P.K. (1978). How to build a universe that doesn't fall apart two days later. Retrieved from: https://urbigenous.net/library/how_to_build.html

Goffman, E. (1961). Encounters: Two studies on the sociology of interaction. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.

Link, E. (2010). Understanding Philip K. Dick. University of South Carolina Press.

Rose, F. (2003). The second coming of Philip K. Dick. Retrieved from: https://www.wired.com/2003/ 12/philip/

Rossi, U. (2011). The twisted worlds of Philip K. Dick: A reading of twenty ontologically uncertain novels. McFarland and Co: Jefferson, NC and London.

Robert MacDougall, Curry College, USA

(1) Operation Chrome Dome was a cornerstone of the United States' air, sea, and land-based 'nuclear triad.' Unfortunately, things did not always go as advertised. There were a few close calls. The Bay of Pigs comes to mind, as well as various military coverups, including (also in 1961) a B-52 carrying two 4-megaton nuclear bombs that broke up in midair over North Carolina. Three of the eight crew members perished in the accident and one of the bombs was recovered with 3 (of 4) arming mechanisms tripped during what was later characterized on a historical marker in downtown Eureka, NC as a 'Nuclear Mishap.' The safe/arm switch was the only mechanism preventing detonation. I would not learn of the North Carolina accident until well into grad school, and we may never know how many smaller military or commercial nuclear (c.f. also 'Three Mile Island' (1)) 'mishaps' have occurred in the United States. But, again, there was plenty of fodder in the form of partial news stories and half-baked rumors to fuel our teenage suspicions.

(2) Sitting atop Atlas-F rockets, each warhead was 100 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This was the only strategic nuclear missile squadron east of the Mississippi river. Growing up a decade after the missiles had come and gone, my friends and I did not know much, but we were utterly captivated by the very real possibility that some mothballed high-tech military installations were still hidden in our midst. I recall at least half a dozen overnight 'bike-n-hike' trips, and later, a few motorbike 'search-recon missions' conducted in our own paramilitary fashion to find those silos. This was the late 1970s and early 80s and so our intelligence was only ever sketchy, at best. No news of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's having decommissioned the missile squadron a decade or so earlier, and no Internet to facilitate any potential fact-finding. Two of my best friends were 'base brats,' their fathers ranking high in the USAF echelon, so the assumption was that any intel they thought they overheard was the inside scoop. According to the best information we could gather, whether or not any missiles or warheads remained, the silos were intact. But we never found a thing. Not a clue. Indeed, we would not have recognized the concrete sloped entry-ways or the closed blast doors if we'd seen them. Of course, finding no evidence only fired up our imaginations, prompting more trips into the surrounding wilderness and late-night bonfire sessions entertaining covert/black ops, government cover-ups, and rogue military conspiracies and things of that sort.

(3) However, I wasn't formally introduced to PKD until the mid-80s as an undergraduate student. It came to a point in my early academic career when I had to register for another literature course to secure a major in 'American Literature' without taking on an additional year of college. I ended up settling on a course entitled 'Science Fiction.' It fit my schedule and seemed the most interesting one on offer. This would end up being my favorite college course. Many of the greats I'd heard of: Azimov, Bradbury, Herbert and Heinlein, in addition to a bunch of names new to me, including Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gregory Benford, and Philip K. Dick. I soon learned about the connection between Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Bladerunner and was immediately hooked. Half way through the course I started reading several other books by PKD, including The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, The Minority Report, and whatever else I could get my hands on at the University library or used bookstore downtown. And since school was just a two-hour drive from my hometown, I made it back regularly, spending portions of my summers under that flight line. More than ever, my new-found awareness of alternate histories, post-apocalyptic futures, wild characters and all manner of human-technological coupling preoccupied my time.

(4) In late-Spring of 2019 Trump 'tweeted out' a doctored video segment depicting an opposition leader mumbling through a statement to the press regarding the President's own likely mental degradation. Far beyond politics as usual, this is an unprecedented moment of partial truths, pure falsehoods, and the associated and regular employment of 'executive order and privilege' to warrant questionable military buildups and all manner of humanitarian crisis.

(5) See Jeet Heer's 2017 article: 'The Post-Literate American Presidency.' Retrieved from: https://newrepublic.com/article/144940/ trump-tv-post-literate-american-presidency; and Joe Weisenthal's 2016 article: 'Donald Trump, the First President of Our Post-Literate Age.' Retrieved from:https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2016-11-29/donald-trump-the-first-president-of-our-post-literate-age.

(6) Of course, presidential lying-by-omission-and-obfuscation is nothing new. The standard tactic of 'plausible deniability' handles most mis-speaks and mis-deeds satisfactorily. But now, moving past mere Orwellian Newspeak, we're seeing bald efforts to alter the official record with computer-enabled manipulations that seem to mimic some twisted PKD plot-line. The question is, will the mass media filter bubbles and social media echo chambers encircling so many citizens today allow any sort of underlying reality to take hold? All of this remains an open question, but if PKD teaches us anything it is that anything is possible with the right 'techno-fix.'

(7) It should not come as a surprise to learn that our political, religious and military elites (or at least those in power at any given historical moment) are often quick to adopt the latest modes of communication to propel their voices across vast distances and enhance their ability to sample and sense the world around them. Technological innovations are used to help ensure the success of their enterprise. And they learn quickly how to use a tool to its potential. From Martin Luther's dissemination of the St. James bible that effectively circumvented Rome and the Papacy to Hitler's expert adoption of film and radio to broadcast and rationalize his plans for genocide and world domination. As Joseph Goebbels noted, "It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio." While much less sinister, much the same could be said of FDR's fireside chats that helped keep afloat and bind together a crippled nation during the great depression to the end of WWII. In Spain, it was radio again with Franco and his legions of soldiers using high powered binoculars to pre-empt the movements of rebels. Ronald Reagan's expert leveraging of TV that allowed him to continue practicing his acting craft. And now with Trump and Twitter something new seems to be underway. Most if not all of the above was prefigured by PKD during his hyperkinetic writing career.

In the Philosophy of Mind, multiple-realizability is a doctrine which holds that 'minds' can be composed of any number of underlying substrates, whether organic or synthetic.

(9) Consider PKD's inspiration for Roog: "Every day, members of the family carried out paper sacks of nice ripe food, stuffed them into the metal container, shut the lid tightly--and when the container was full, these dreadful-looking creatures came and stole everything but the can. Finally, in the story, the dog begins to imagine that someday the garbagemen will eat the people in the house, as well as stealing their food. Of course, the dog is wrong about this. We all know that garbagemen do not eat people. But the dog's extrapolation was in a sense logical--given the facts at his disposal. The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get inside his head and imagine how he saw the world. Certainly, I decided, that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans do. And then I began to think, maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. And that led me wonder: If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others?" (PKD, 1978).

(10) And yet, despite all of this collective intelligence, through both broad- and narrow-casting, the most wild and outlandish realities find mass-audiences alongside established journalistic and scientific fact. They are often realities that make no sense: astrology, creationism, the anti-vax movement, not to mention the 'pro-lifers' who arbitrarily pinpoint the 'beginning of life' and ignore the repeated findings of both federally and privately funded social science showing long and deep patterns of poverty associated with unwanted pregnancies.

(11) Interestingly, there is a growing body of neurological research which suggests that the brain and communication apparatus of young humans in particular are much more elastic than originally believed. Researchers at UCLA published a study several years ago that demonstrated how, just a few days after abstaining from using electronic gadgets, children's social skills improved almost immediately. This is all food for thought, considering how PEW, Neilsen and other respectable data showing the average American child spends more than seven and a half hours a day using smart-phones and other screen-based technologies. And all of this of course prompts that recurrent Dickian question: what makes us human? (see also PKD's 1976 essay entitled 'Man, Android and Machine').

(12) For an introduction to Steve Jobs' tenuous relationship with the very technologies he peddled to the public, see http://www.inquisitr.com/1468612/steve-jobs-didnt-let-his-kids-use-iphones-or-ipads-heres-why/#F3fUfH7j3ljcfi5E.99

(13) Consider this other relevant insight from Mackay: "Reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, [nations] have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first." A sobering sentiment that gains even more credence in the digital age.

(14) We all aspire, in one way or another, for a 'clearing'--a space to breathe, to move, to think and to live. This need is what drives much of the action in The Defenders and its decade-later 'rewrite' The Penultimate Truth. The humans living in their habitable, but nonetheless underground enclaves, with false news reports of excessive radiation still rendering the planet surface uninhabitable. It is a far cry from the reality. The dirty little secret: the technological have and have nots really are Nature's haves and have nots. It's hardly a post-apocalyptic wasteland up top. The surface world hosts bucolic landscapes and wide open spaces, a real Garden of Eden.

(15) Unfortunately, something of the opposite (a narrow, short-sighted, and highly constrained sort of awareness) characterizes this socio-historical moment. In surveys related to 'homeland security,' millions of Americans report a willingness to give up some personal privacy in exchange for a more secure and convenient life. A similar sentiment comes through at the beginning of every semester when I ask my students their opinions on government (FCC) rules and regulations or regarding things like mobile service provider and social media data collection policies. However such questions become dead serious when we consider how, after Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, many Ukrainians were calling for 'smart bombs' as opposed to conventional missiles and weapons to help ensure more precise and painless killing. As bizarre as this may be, in theory at least, smart weapons hit their marks more often so as to minimize collateral damage. This, of course raises the following question: is this a more or less than human enterprise?

(16) In The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) Antarctica has become a favorite holiday destination due to global warming and the inhospitable nature of life elsewhere. Here again, PKD saw the signs and offered some poignant prognostications regarding the emerging state of the world. Indeed, it is notable that Andrew Wheeler, current head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a former coal lobbyist. Wheeler recently issued a call to remove significant content from the National Climate Assessment (NCA), a document that contains information predicting substantial long-term negative impact to the US Gross Domestic product (GDP) if actions stemming carbon emissions are not put into motion now. The NCA is still generally considered the 'north star' or benchmark for other nations. Orwellian NewSpeak notwithstanding, the actual science underlying this and other documents is being attacked. Following suit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the argument at a climate meeting in Finland that the melting arctic sea ice will open up new trade routes "like an arctic Suez Canal" that will reduce shipping times by 20 hours. A notable feature of this socio-political moment that conjures 'Palmer Eldritch' and other post-apocalyptic PKD tales is the intentional ignorance and suppression of scientific facts, as well as the manufacture of 'alternative facts' by various players. The Koch brothers, Harold Hammon and Carl Ikon have provided monetary support for various entropic-qua-'anti-ecological' initiatives, and the Mercer family has sponsored such notables and Steve Bannon, David Bolton, and the Trump administration's resident Physicist, William Happer, who recently equated the 'demonization of carbon dioxide' to the treatment of Jews under Hitler. The vast majority of these players are not officially associated with the administration but remain instrumental to the direction of official government policy as happens in stories like 'Palmer Eldritch' and The Simulacra.
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