or
Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Colour:
Image not available

 
Tell the Publisher!
Id like to read this book on Kindle

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection [Paperback]

David Dufty
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 9.44
Price: 9.32 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
You Save: 0.12 (1%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover 14.51  
Paperback 9.32  
Audio, CD, Audiobook 18.17  

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; Reprint edition (4 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250032156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250032157
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 15 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,544,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description

How to Build an Android "Stranger than fiction."--"The Washington Post" 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 mimi... Full description

Sell a Digital Version of This Book in the Kindle Store

If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to a book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store. Learn more

Customer Reviews

5 star
0
4 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Hardcover
I was amused (well, I laughed out loud) early in the book. We have this group of brains in a facility complaining about it being too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer. I guess those physicists couldn't figure out how to block the registers. I'm also figuring that the maintenance staff changed the light bulbs.

While reading this, I had to separate the "story" from the "story telling" and "story teller". The "story" was somewhat interesting, though it was sometimes difficult to winnow the wheat from the chaff. The "story telling" and "story teller" combination failed to put forth the story to their audience in an entertaining way. It was too dry and disjointed. I could only handle about ten pages at a time.

For those with a historical interest in the field or those with a particular interest in this portion of its story, this will probably be a good addition to their libraries. For those wanting detailed information about robotics, androids and/or artificial intelligence, this contains only the "public" side of such and little that will "teach" you anything. For those who, like me, enjoy popular science books about interesting events and subjects, this is OK (and "OK" is Amazon's definition of three stars).

(As I finished, I had this thought: Had they had put someone capable of adjusting those heat/ac registers in charge of transporting the android's head, I wonder if it would have been left on a plane. I know how I'm betting.)

(I received an Advance Reader's Copy from the Amazon US Vine program.)
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebuilding Phil Dick Wholesale: a True Story 23 Jun 2012
By Kevin L. Nenstiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Philip K. Dick Android--a collaboration between private roboticist David Hanson and a team of intelligence researchers at the University of Memphis--gained great notoriety when it debuted in 2003. People jockeyed for a chance to speak with it for just one or two minutes. Audiences cheered when it said something unpredictable, profound, or even hurtful. Though rudimentary, viewers glimpsed in "Phil" a possible shape of their future.

Then, in 2005, bound for its highest profile gig yet, the android vanished.

Author David F. Dufty, now an Australian government researcher, was present in Memphis for the android's bizarre life, and even stranger disappearance. Though not a participant, Dufty knew the research team well enough to recount a thorough insider's perspective. And though he swears he has inserted not one word of fiction, this heady blend of computer science, mechanical engineering, psychology, and art has more twists than PKD's legendary novels.

Art Graesser, founder of Memphis' Institute of Intelligence Studies, dedicated his life to understanding and recreating the rational mind. David Hanson, a Dallas graduate student and entrepreneur, felt it didn't matter how intelligent Artificial Intelligence became if humans couldn't feel comfortable interacting with it. The two found kindred spirits in each other, and together opened the door to one of modern technology's strangest and most exciting enterprises.

The decision to build an android in PKD's likeness was extremely meta. An android image of a writer who envisioned a world where people wondered if they were androids? Really? Then they displayed it in an illusion of the house in which PKD came to believe all reality was an illusion. Dick, a paranoid amphetamine addict with a gregarious temperament and a flair for the dramatic, could not have choreographed a better science fiction spectacle.

By no means was the android an unqualified success. Only the face and head were articulated; the body was basically a mannequin. Its speech recognition technology was vulnerable to even slight interference. Worse, because PKD left a massive corpus of publications and interview transcripts, the language generation software could hit a recursive loop, lapsing into a trance or spouting inane, interminable monologues. It required constant human supervision.

But it also came closer than any artificial device, before or since, to bridging the gap between humans and our creations. It substantially disproved two generations of technological philosophy, which thought humans would fear machines that proved too lifelike; indeed, people psychologically imbued it with human traits it didn't yet have. People wanted to believe this was the reborn visage of a unique, cultic novelist.

Dufty seamlessly merges journalism, science, and literary criticism in a history of one of recent technology's most remarkable events. He makes us dream of what seemed possible just a few years ago. And he makes us hope we might live to see those possibilities once again.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nuanced look at the human/robot interface 31 Mar 2012
By Daniel H. Hamilton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I fear that the title and blurbs for this book will narrow its appeal to nerds and sci-fi fans (I include myself), which would be a shame because David Dufty has done an impressive job of exploring fundamental questions about what it means to be human and what role the attributes of that humanity play in how we interact with "thinking" machines.

Dufty has also managed to combine elements of a mystery, an adventure, sci-fi, and social commentary without letting the seams between those story threads become so visible to the audience that they disrupt the narrative flow. If this sounds a bit like the goals of the project which created an artificially-intelligent android of famed science fiction author Philip K. Dick, well, there you go. Dufty's role in that project gave him up-close access, but to his credit he also maintains perspective and reports on the ups and down of the team's efforts with some objectivity and distance.

The edition I read is a pre-publication proof and if I were the editor I would make one significant change prior to the announced on-sale date of June, 2012. Lose the Introduction. As writers have been taught since time immemorial, a great way to start a book or story is "in medias res" -- in the middle of things. Chapter 1 does this with a "grabber" lede worthy of a master journalist: "In December 2005, an android head went missing from an America West flight between Dallas and Las Vegas." You'd have to be -- pardon the expression -- brain dead not to want to keep reading. Compare that to the intro, which starts out, "In 2005, I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Memphis ..." You get the idea.The info about the author which follows would be much more appropriate to an appendix or note at the end of the book, when any doubts about the veracity of the story would either be resolved anyway or could be further addressed by Dufty's credentials.

Another small complaint is the low-quality photos, which are a slight disappointment, but may be all that are available. They do, however, manage to convey the inevitable creepy feelings we experience when looking at a lifelike android whose face is so very human, but whose head visibly reveals wires and motors. The contrast is very unsettling and like the book in its entirety, effectively raises the big issue of how humanity will want to relate to its own creations in the very near future.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget Alfredo--Bring Me the Head of Phillip! 21 Jun 2012
By Brian M. Ranzoni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The title of one of Philip K Dick's most famous novels is also a question. Asked since at least the days of Alan Turing--do androids dream of electric sheep? Can a computer think? Separately, the world of robotics has largely dismissed the humanoid robot as quaint; purpose-built monsters are the order of the day, and if socialized machines are required, just render a cute face on a monitor. Besides, the premise of the Uncanny Valley ensures that androids will be too creepy to be accepted.

David Hanson and Andrew Olney, backed by the University of Memphis and FedEx, didn't agree. And who better than to demonstrate their opposing view than a conversable recreation of a certain, late, genius? No, not Alan Turing!

Philip K. Dick (PKD) meets his destiny in Patrick Dufty's *How to Build an Android*. Not just as a robotic resurrection, or even an advanced AI capable of holding unique conversations with human visitors--his head became lost luggage in Orange County, a suitable end to this particular simulacra. As for Dufty, he was a postdoc associated with the builders. With his rare insider view, the advanced reading copy (ARC) shows promise.

The book reads as a story, including the author's own adventures in trying to track the head of Philip K. Dick (as opposed to bringing me the head of Alfredo Garcia--and yes, there is a Peckinpah reference). At the same time, Dufty avoids purple prose or many references to cinema. His subject is focused on the first Dick droid and his creators, so don't expect a sweeping round of the field of robotics, or of the second droid built in 2011. While a large part of the story covers the creation of the robot, no schematics or specs are to be found.

The book itself is laid out with an attractive cover and page design. However, it stumbles a bit from the beginning. Formula rhetorical writing teaches that a speaker needs to establish their credentials up front. Not always best to follow one formula--for a narrative, credibility comes from good storytelling. The introduction of the book should be relocated so readers can get straight to the punchy first chapter. Author's own involvement can be worked intrinsically into the action, and then summarized as biography at the end.

Stories move along when the prose tightens up. Dufty's story is informative, but the flow clogs up when it should be sweeping me along. His prose is periodically plugged with repetitive words, such as the same name repeated three or four times in as many sentences. Transitions between those sentences, their paragraphs, and the chapters can also smooth out. Finally, the author's voice needs to perk up and speak more actively.

Speaking of active voice, you can watch the PKD droids on the internet. I find both of them robotic. Hear the whine of the motors and the obvious speaker sound. Then again, the voice synthesizer does not exactly reproduce Dick or his speech compared to the recordings I've heard. Head movements are still too herky-jerky and limited in range to be human.

I bring this up to say that the ARC downplays these, well, uncanny aspects of the head. I am sympathetic with the book's argument that the Uncanny Valley hypothesis is far from established theory. I find the androids to be a novelty more than a neurosis. Yet I can't help notice YouTube comments, as well as quotes in the text of the book itself, confessing the creep factor. Dufty is largely taking an objective tone in his book, yet implies that the head is more lifelike than it actually appears to me on video.

Still, cosmetic technology has come a long way. The first head looks lightyears more realistic than the bust of Ian Holm in the original Alien. The second gen droid is even more personable with head hair and detailed blue eyes.

The guerilla nature of the project amazed me. The AI required high-level programming knowledge, while the bust used custom titanium parts. Otherwise, much of it was built without salary, sometimes with donated software or hardware, and often on precious spare time between university work. Indeed, the team only got the head up and running a mere four days before it was due to debut at NextFest. After it was lost, Hanson estimated the value of the prop at $750,000, but actual money paid thanks to all the volunteer work is somewhere along the lines of $30,000. Not bad!

PKD Robot No. 1 made three major public appearances before he bowed out for good. After promoting the film of A Scanner Darkly (see my review), Hanson was on the way to Google headquarters when he, er, left his head on an plane in Las Vegas. Although airline crews claim to have recovered PKD droid in Orange County, Hanson was given the run-around and the landmark bust remains unrecovered. The book takes the charitable position that the head was simply misplaced in transit to San Francisco. Reading between the lines of the loss, I suspect the head was stolen by airport personnel. Dufty does not mention any computer tracking. So it's only the baggage handlers' word that they ever loaded PKD onto a plane--a flight coincidentally rerouted away from San Francisco at the last minute. If that isn't conspiratorial enough for you, imagine heour hypothetical theif sold it to Iranian agents looking to capitalize on American technology. However wrong this all might be, I've thought up a line that Philip himself would be proud to compose.

When all is said and done, *How to Build an Android* composes for us one corner of the field of robotics. The PKD machine sounds far from being able to dream of electric sheep, but the art of a social simulacra appears much closer. And while his book needs some tweaks, Dufty does his part to bring the android dream to humanity.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting project. Not as interestingly written. 28 April 2012
By Dick Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was amused (well, I laughed out loud) early in the book. We have this group of brains in a facility complaining about it being too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer. I guess those physicists couldn't figure out how to block the registers. I'm also figuring that the maintenance staff changed the light bulbs.

While reading this, I had to separate the "story" from the "story telling" and "story teller". The "story" was somewhat interesting, though it was sometimes difficult to winnow the wheat from the chaff. The "story telling" and "story teller" combination failed to put forth the story to their audience in an entertaining way. It was too dry and disjointed. I could only handle about ten pages at a time.

For those with a historical interest in the field or those with a particular interest in this portion of it's story, this will probably be a good addition to their libraries. For those wanting detailed information about robotics, androids and/or artificial intelligence, this contains only the "public" side of such and little that will "teach" you anything. For those who, like me, enjoy popular science books about interesting events and subjects, this is OK (and "OK" is Amazon's definition of three stars).

(As I finished, I had this thought: Had they had put someone capable of adjusting those heat/ac registers in charge of transporting the android's head, I wonder if it would have been left on a plane. I know how I'm betting.)
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "More human than human"? 5 Aug 2012
By Jason Kirkfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Originally, I had hoped to dovetail this review with that of another book, the near-thousand page tome, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. However, time constraints and what will surely be an acute case of eye strain compel me to save that for a later day (year?).

The subject book, How to Build an Android (original Australian title: Lost in Transit), is a tell-all about the creation of a robot honoring science fiction author Philip K. Dick. In my opinion, this book may find its audience limited, or at the very least, mildly disappointed. Written by a postdoctoral student on the periphery of the PKD project at the University of Memphis, How to Build an Android offers plenty of details, yet struggles to connect the minutia to real-world relevance. It's sort of like gossiping about how much Diet Coke your neighbor drinks. Like, who cares?

There's no question that PKD's own profile has increased exponentially since his untimely death in 1982. That same year saw the theatrical release of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, now regarded as possibly the classic dystopian vision. Blade Runner was of course based on Dick's short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. More adaptations would follow at a quickening pace. We Can Remember It for You Wholesale became Total Recall (1990). Second Variety became Screamers (1995). Impostor (2001). Minority Report (2002). Paycheck (2003). A Scanner Darkly (2006). The Adjustment Bureau (2011).

Sadly, much of that commercial success eluded Dick during his lifetime. What Dick had in spades were hallucinations: vibrant, strange experiences which colored an unusually fertile (and already unusual) mind. As author David Dufty correctly observes, Dick "found meaning in things that had no meaning, and links between things that had no connection." In the chapter titled, Brain Malfunction, Dufty observes the endless loops in which Robo-Phil would get caught, building up immense backlogs of data on his memory buffer, and draws a parallel between the android and its inspiration: "Like the android, he malfunctioned, but for very different reasons." Many of Dick's later insights have been cataloged in Exegesis, which you can read if you have lots of time and access to plenty of pharmaceuticals. Better in my opinion to enjoy the source material itself (short stories).

Reading this book is more or less a waste of time, even if it's a question of a few hours. It's not completely devoid of insight. I learned, for example, the difference between a genuine smile and a fake smile. (Hint: It's all about the crow's-feet.) And there are some truly LOL moments in the conversation logs between people who believed they were conversing with the spirit of a very prescient (but very dead) science fiction writer. But I would have liked more focus on android designer David Hanson, whose slip of the mind caused the loss of android Philip K. Dick's head. (If, in fact, it truly went missing; the idea of some vast conspiracy is oddly satisfying, and I am certain PKD would have agreed.) Hanson embodies both the best and worst traits of Dr. Eldon Tyrell. Author Dufty tells us that Hanson believed humans are creating a society that will be *more* than human: a synthesis of human and machine, and that advances in machine technology mean we need new ways of studying the way humans and machines are coevolving. (pp. 21, 33) These are huge issues, hence my review title, an homage to, what else, Blade Runner. I wish there were more of that in this book. In its place are too many characters with whom too little connection is made (Eric Mathews, Sarah Petschonek, Suresh Susarla, among others). As well, there are many weak throwaways where the author was unwilling or unable to share real insight. Said of an upcoming conference: "It could be good or it could be a waste of time." As it happens, the same can be said for this book.

Jason Kirkfield, Vine Review, August 4, 2012
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
Topic:
First post:
Prompts for sign-in
 

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions
   


Look for similar items by category


Feedback