Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Penfield Mood Organ and "Digitized Desire"

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
By Philip K. Dick is a book that makes you think while you are reading it, and even long after you have finished it. At the very beginning of the novel something called a Penfield Mood Organ is introduced. This mood organ controls the emotions of human beings. A person is connected to it somehow, and they are able to dial to a certain number, which corresponds to a certain emotion. For example #3 when dialed creates the need to want to dial a happier or more pleasant mood.  I read an article discussing the mood organ called “Cyborg Bodies and Digitized Desires:Post humanity and phillip k. dick” (numbers 13 and 14), this article discussed what it means to set emotions up in advance.  Attaway comments states “that human beings have become so manipulated by outside forces that they have no sense of inspiration or organic desire”, she feels that this takes away from human behavior, and allows human emotions to become predictable. Attaway describes this act of using the Penfield Mood organ as “digitized desire” which basically means that a person’s desire or wants are “no longer expressive of the individual”.

During our group discussion during class today we had been talking about the enlightenment that Rick feels at the end of the story.  We felt that his experience at the end was pure and real. However, that is because we had forgotten about the Penfield Mood Organ
 that had been introduced in the beginning. Rick had stated that he would “dial what’s on [his] schedule for today” which happened to be businesslike professional attitude. However, this mood could be assumed to just be for his work day. What if the rest of his day scheduled had many other mood fluctuations. What if Rick had scheduled himself and enlightenment?
Rick is not a very religious person, and throughout the story does not seem that interested in Mercerism (a whole other topic). However, maybe he feels that if he was more connected with Mercer and more empathetic than his life would feel more worth living. I do not really have an answer, nor do I believe there is one. But it would be very interesting to go back and read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and look and see if Rick’s moods are determined by some outside force, and not by his actions or surroundings. Is the ending less powerful if Rick’s enlightenment is just something he does every other month? Or is it more powerful because Rick wants to believe in something?

Side Note: I found Attaway’s unwillingness to capitalize Phillip K. Dicks name very interesting. Throughout the entire article his name is in all lowercase. I am not sure why this choice was made, but to me it was obviously for some purpose. Just wondering if anyone who also read this article had a theory?

1 comment:

  1. I also wonder what happens if we think (following Lacan) of organic desire as being always about LOSS. In other words, the state of desire is precipitated on longing for that which one does not have, so there is always a kind of loss inflecting all desire. If that is the case, then dialing up a mood seems to be less about inhabiting a certain engineered emotion than it is about recognizing that the state you are in right now is somehow not the mood you want to be in. If you use a mood organ, are you ever IN a mood, or are you always punching keys to express the kind of fullness of experience that is now always already gone? Someone asked at the end of class whether or not you are ever OFF the mood organ: is there such a thing as not programmed in this new world, or is everything Rick and the others feel part of the pre-planned schedule? Don't know where I am going with any of this, except to suggest that desire is a tricky thing, since HAVING it also means you distinctly do. not. have. IT.


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