Synopses & Reviews
The stranger-than-fiction story of the ingenious creation and loss of an artificially intelligent android of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick
In late January 2006, a young robotocist on the way to Google headquarters lost an overnight bag on a flight somewhere between Dallas and Las Vegas. In it was a fully functional head of the android replica of Philip K. Dick, cult science-fiction writer and counterculture guru. It has never been recovered.
In a story that echoes some of the most paranoid fantasies of a Dick novel, readers get a fascinating inside look at the scientists and technology that made this amazing android possible. The author, who was a fellow researcher at the University of Memphis Institute of Intelligent Systems while the android was being built, introduces readers to the cutting-edge technology in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sculpture that came together in this remarkable machine and captured the imagination of scientists, artists, and science-fiction fans alike. And there are great stories about Dick himself—his inspired yet deeply pessimistic worldview, his bizarre lifestyle, and his enduring creative legacy. In the tradition of popular science classics like Packing for Mars and The Disappearing Spoon, How to Build an Android is entertaining and informative—popular science at its best.
"Dufty engagingly chronicles the efforts of a team of University of Memphis roboticists to build an android modeled on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The book shows how the researchers attempted, partially successfully, to build a machine that not only looked like the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? author, but also imitated his speech patterns. Dufty, a postdoctoral researcher at the university when the team debuted 'Phil,' lucidly explains the logistical hurdles facing the robotics team members as well as how they solved some significant problems; 'Phil' sometimes babbled incessantly in response to questions when he was unveiled in 2005, spurring the team to build a kill switch. Dufty focuses on two main developers who created Phil David Hanson, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate and founder of Hanson Robotics, who created Phil's head only to later lose it on an airplane, and Andrew Olney, a computer programmer who was obsessed with science fiction books as a youngster. Dufty examines how their differing outlooks influenced the project: Olney wanted to build an android that could answer questions intelligently, while Hanson wanted to create a machine that would appear human. Dufty's narrative is a fun read that captures the researchers' excitement about creating Phil, but doesn't quite address whether the initiative was worth the effort. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“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
“Stranger than fiction.”—The Washington Post
“[Dufty] knows the atmosphere of the Institute for Intelligent Systems from the inside. He 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.”—Los Angeles Times
“Dufty provides an exhaustive understanding of how to build an android....He is hip to campus office politics and the way egos rub together, and the suspenseful anxiety of grant applications....The character who ends up being most intriguing is poor nonhuman Phil, whose unknown destiny gives the book a tinge of sorrow.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Dufty explains how Dick was made into a machine by an endearingly nerdy group of roboticists. [He] uses the unlikely story to meditate on the state of robotics and artificial intelligence.”—Slate
“[The creators] fascination with the aesthetic evolution of androids into more human-looking forms makes for especially compelling reading.”—The Dallas Morning News
“A fascinating and mind-bending book.”—Booklist
“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'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
In this remarkable behind-the-scenes narrative, David F. Dufty follows a group of scientists on their mission to create “Phil,” a life-size android of famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. We witness the obstacles the scientists encounter and the innovative solutions they apply to overcome them. The fact that the subject Phil was built to mimic was a man notoriously paranoid and fascinated by artificial intelligence colors the story all the way to its unforgettable end, when the robots head goes missing, never to be seen again. A riveting story that will capture science enthusiasts and general readers alike, How to Build An Android traces the line where artificial intelligence and humans collide.
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.