Tuesday, December 02, 2003

While I study for my marketing exam.. the following cover story from wired caught my attention - real interesting - has introduced me to the world of Philip K Dick.

The Metaphysics of Philip K. Dick
Don't know Dick? Here's his philosophy in capsule form. (Warning: May cause anxiety or dizzyness.)
by Erik Davis

Today we are almost bored by the idea that reality is a just a construct - neuroscience, postmodernism, and The Matrix have made sure of that. But Dick remains the supreme mythmaker of the false reality. His 1959 novel, Time Out of Joint, was the original Truman Show, while his 1964 book, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, describes a society that succumbs to permanent hallucination. Faced with such illusions, Dick's characters have to ask, "What is real?" because their lives (and sanity) are on the line. That's why hipster Hollywood loves him: Dick turned metaphysics into a whodunit.

Dick wanted to know how, in a technological society, we can recognize the authentically human. He saw the line between people and machines become hopelessly blurred. So his human characters often behave like cruel robots, while spunky gadgets - like the automatic cabbie in Now Wait for Last Year - can be sources of wisdom and kindness. And in "The Electric Ant," when businessman Garson Poole discovers that he is actually an android, he doesn't despair. Instead, he begins to reprogram himself.

One thing you learn from drug addiction, five marriages, and a visionary imagination is how easily your world can fall apart. Perhaps this was why Dick was obsessed with how things decay. He even invented a word for one of entropy's most ordinary manifestations: "kipple," which he defined as all the useless crap that creeps into our daily lives, like junk mail and gum wrappers and old newspapers. Don't bother fighting it - Dick's First Law of Kipple states that "Kipple drives out nonkipple."

Dick was a garage philosopher, an autodidact who read voraciously in religion and metaphysics. Sometimes his speculations leaked into everyday life. In 1974, undergoing a psychotic and/or mystical break, Dick encountered a cosmic force he later called Valis, which stands for Vast Active Living Intelligence System - a cybernetic God. But keep on your toes: To sneak into our fallen world, Valis must disguise itself as TV ads or trash - or pulpy sci-fi entertainment.

Dick was always pretty paranoid. But when thieves broke into his home in 1971, it sent him over the edge. Soon he came to believe that all political tyrannies were facets of one cosmic oppressor: the Black Iron Prison, a timeless archetype that he associated with the Roman Empire. Dick sometimes thought that history was an illusion and that the Nixon administration's dirty tricks only proved that "The Empire never ended." One wonders what he would think today.

The full article is available(presently ie) at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.12/philip.html

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