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How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection First Edition Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805095517
ISBN-10: 0805095519
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“You've got to love a book that includes physics-lecturing fish, android Einsteins, and researchers intent on building robot replicas of their wives and girlfriends. Not to mention Philip K. Dick himself. This is an instant classic of weird science.” ―Alex Boese, bestselling author of Elephants on Acid and Electric Sheep

“This story is touching, absorbing and, ultimately, an exploration of what it means to be human.” ―The Spectator

“The best kind of popular science... Leaves you hungry to know more, and wondering at the possibilities that may lie ahead.” ―Australian Bookseller & Publisher

“Literally incredible.” ―The Age

“[Dufty] ably describes the fertile, feverish atmosphere of intellectual endeavor, the kind of place where a crazy idea--like building a Philip K. Dick android--could take hold.” ―LA Times

“[Dufty's] reconstruction through interviews with the participants is an appealing depiction of brilliant minds dreaming big on shoestring budgets.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“A highly technical story that Dufty manages to make intriguing and accessible to less tech-savvy readers...A fascinating story.” ―Kirkus

“Dufty engagingly chronicles the efforts of a team of roboticists to build an android modeled on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick...A fun read.” ―Publishers Weekly

“A fascinating and mind-bending book, written for the general reader, although experts in the field of robotics will find it particularly stimulating, and fans of Dick's oeuvre will be captivated by the whole idea of turning the legendary storyteller into a mechanical man.” ―Booklist

About the Author

David F. Dufty is a senior research officer at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Memphis at the time the android was being developed and worked closely with the team of scientists who created it. He completed a psychology degree with honors at the University of Newcastle and has a PhD in psychology from Macquarie University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805095519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805095517
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,343,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Philip K. Dick Android--a collaboration between private roboticist David Hanson and a team of intelligence researchers at the University of Memphis--gained great notoriety when it debuted in 2003. People jockeyed for a chance to speak with it for just one or two minutes. Audiences cheered when it said something unpredictable, profound, or even hurtful. Though rudimentary, viewers glimpsed in "Phil" a possible shape of their future.

Then, in 2005, bound for its highest profile gig yet, the android vanished.

Author David F. Dufty, now an Australian government researcher, was present in Memphis for the android's bizarre life, and even stranger disappearance. Though not a participant, Dufty knew the research team well enough to recount a thorough insider's perspective. And though he swears he has inserted not one word of fiction, this heady blend of computer science, mechanical engineering, psychology, and art has more twists than PKD's legendary novels.

Art Graesser, founder of Memphis' Institute of Intelligence Studies, dedicated his life to understanding and recreating the rational mind. David Hanson, a Dallas graduate student and entrepreneur, felt it didn't matter how intelligent Artificial Intelligence became if humans couldn't feel comfortable interacting with it. The two found kindred spirits in each other, and together opened the door to one of modern technology's strangest and most exciting enterprises.

The decision to build an android in PKD's likeness was extremely meta. An android image of a writer who envisioned a world where people wondered if they were androids? Really? Then they displayed it in an illusion of the house in which PKD came to believe all reality was an illusion.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I fear that the title and blurbs for this book will narrow its appeal to nerds and sci-fi fans (I include myself), which would be a shame because David Dufty has done an impressive job of exploring fundamental questions about what it means to be human and what role the attributes of that humanity play in how we interact with "thinking" machines.

Dufty has also managed to combine elements of a mystery, an adventure, sci-fi, and social commentary without letting the seams between those story threads become so visible to the audience that they disrupt the narrative flow. If this sounds a bit like the goals of the project which created an artificially-intelligent android of famed science fiction author Philip K. Dick, well, there you go. Dufty's role in that project gave him up-close access, but to his credit he also maintains perspective and reports on the ups and down of the team's efforts with some objectivity and distance.

The edition I read is a pre-publication proof and if I were the editor I would make one significant change prior to the announced on-sale date of June, 2012. Lose the Introduction. As writers have been taught since time immemorial, a great way to start a book or story is "in medias res" -- in the middle of things. Chapter 1 does this with a "grabber" lede worthy of a master journalist: "In December 2005, an android head went missing from an America West flight between Dallas and Las Vegas." You'd have to be -- pardon the expression -- brain dead not to want to keep reading. Compare that to the intro, which starts out, "In 2005, I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Memphis ..." You get the idea.
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This slim tome is an account of the project to build a android replica of famous genre author Philip K. Dick as a means to explore artificial intelligence and methods of making androids. I've written about this on my blog (The Lensman's Children) in the past, the story of the android head and how it went astray is pretty well-known at this point.

Given that Dick wrote about (among many things) artificial intelligence and what it means to be "human", and has attracted a pretty wide following, it is not surprising that the team that put together the android chose him as their subject. The book does a fairly good job of outlining the (sometimes pretty haphazard and crazy) process of designing, building and showing the android to the public.

Dufty's writing doesn't really come alive, alas, except for a few places. In one, Dick's children "meet" the android. In another, a little girl and her father ask the android some questions. The android's operating system coughs a bit, but manages to answer in an almost creepily alive fashion.

The book seems unfocused at times, going from technical to popular. Perhaps more of a steady course would have resulted in a better overall work.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title of one of Philip K Dick's most famous novels is also a question. Asked since at least the days of Alan Turing--do androids dream of electric sheep? Can a computer think? Separately, the world of robotics has largely dismissed the humanoid robot as quaint; purpose-built monsters are the order of the day, and if socialized machines are required, just render a cute face on a monitor. Besides, the premise of the Uncanny Valley ensures that androids will be too creepy to be accepted.

David Hanson and Andrew Olney, backed by the University of Memphis and FedEx, didn't agree. And who better than to demonstrate their opposing view than a conversable recreation of a certain, late, genius? No, not Alan Turing!

Philip K. Dick (PKD) meets his destiny in Patrick Dufty's *How to Build an Android*. Not just as a robotic resurrection, or even an advanced AI capable of holding unique conversations with human visitors--his head became lost luggage in Orange County, a suitable end to this particular simulacra. As for Dufty, he was a postdoc associated with the builders. With his rare insider view, the advanced reading copy (ARC) shows promise.

The book reads as a story, including the author's own adventures in trying to track the head of Philip K. Dick (as opposed to bringing me the head of Alfredo Garcia--and yes, there is a Peckinpah reference). At the same time, Dufty avoids purple prose or many references to cinema. His subject is focused on the first Dick droid and his creators, so don't expect a sweeping round of the field of robotics, or of the second droid built in 2011.
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