Sunday, December 23, 2012

Giving Head

David F. Dufty; How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection (Henry Holt; 2012; eISBN 978-0-8050-9557-9; cover artist not indicated).

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 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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