There are some books that haunt you as soon as you see them. That’s what happened to me with Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? The title itself, a question, started to haunt me, giving me psychedelic images of possibilities, before I even picked the book up.
It’s written by amazingly creative Philip K Dick, an Amreekan author. It’s a classic now (it was written in an era long, long ago: 1968) and has been reprinted and republished and torrented billions of times.The book leaves you with many other questions. Questions on what’s real, what’s a droid, and how do you live in a world where both these boundaries are increasingly getting blurred. It’s a rather short novel, a mere 200 pages but it leaves a mark on you. I hogged through the book, hungrily lapping it up, saddened when it ended. My life emptied as if I’d just had a breakup. Like someone addicted, I found the Hollywood version, then read about fan posts on Reddit, or where ever. In other words, it took me months to get out of the hauntedness of the book. It’s title however, still sends me in a freeze, wondering about creative possibilities.
I still think about the bots around me, about their feelings, and about their dreams. I wonder what kind of images flash in their head when I’m not around, or when I’m abusing them by clicking, ticking, swiping, wiping, throwing them. What do cellphones and laptops, televisions and fitness bracelets dream of? And all this just because of the title. So when I came across this art project by Google Research, I was astounded. They’d visualised what I’d been imagining all this while. Their image recognition software, which can detect, analyze and auto-caption images, simulates the human brain. In a process they’re calling “inceptionism,” Google engineers went on to see what this fake brain dreams of. It’s happening, screamed my brain. (Read what Google Researchers are doing).
And then I came across another art project, inspired by the Google one on Twitch.tv, a site I’m getting increasingly addicted to. Made by a couple of PhD students from Ghent University in Belgium, this project livestreams what a AI hallucinates. You can tell it what to dream about by messaging on the forum (pineapple, dragons, throne, spider web, anything) and it shows in the stream in a bit. I spent a whole day with a window of this awesomeness open on my screen, spellbound, in love, gasping for breath, for possibilities. So I had to share some craziness with you all. Go on, sink your time. Be goggled.
Someday, I will write a science fiction about these dreams. Someday.