Androids, Electronic Sheep, Psychology and Mythology

Actroid DER 2 Robot

Credit: Joe Flood, Creative Commons, Some Rights Reserved

Many science fiction authors have written about androids — robotic humans simulating human intelligence with powerful software — and as usual, science fiction (20th century mythology) is becoming reality. The term “android” was popularized, I think, by prominent science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick, whose Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? short story was one of many that explored the concept, “What is human?” Fittingly, he has himself been memorialized with an android facsimile.

The Japanese are generally at the forefront of android technology, having grown comfortable with the myth of robots while westerners are still grappling with myths of Frankenstein, Pygmalion and Galatia, and the Terminator. I suspect Shinto animism gives them much more comfort with the idea of animate, nonhuman beings. Western religious and philosophical traditions about the importance of the human soul, how it’s vulnerable to malignant forces, and how it distinguishes us from animals, make westerners predisposed to worry about souls and humanity.

I’ve just written an article featuring videos of a number of surprisingly lifelike androids, and how they express and challenge our psychological assumptions about humans, gender roles, and sexual roles. Phillip K. Dick is there, as well as an Aiko robot whose relationship with her inventor is eerily like the myth of Galatea, the sculpture who became alive, and Pygmalion, the genius sculptor who created her and fell in love with her. See:

Real Androids Are Here, Proving We Humans Are Creepy!

Once again, mythology helps prepare us and give us a psychological framework for dealing with reality, while also serving as an expression of our psychology. It seems that androids are beginning to serve the same purpose in the 21st century.

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