Mr. Spaceship

December 18, 2011

In the short story “Mr. Spaceship,” published in 1953 in a publication called Imagination (according to my Citadel Twilight collection, Volume 1), Philip K. Dick put a human brain into a spaceship, a la a “living ship.” So he was way ahead of his time on this particular sci-fi meme.

There’s a lot that is wrong in this story, the cheesy ending notwithstanding. For one,there is the bit of dialogue from the story, “Very little life is actually conscious. Animals, trees, insects are quick in their responses, but they aren’t conscious.” Now, attributing a lack of sentience to animals, that they are merely reactionary clockwork mechanisms, may have been the prevailing “popular wisdom” of the time, but of course it is flat-out wrong. And the notion that a human brain would work and react faster and better than a computer processor is similarly untrue. We do have unique advantages over our eventual robotic overlords, but reaction time is not one of them.

Still, Dick’s prescience in this idea of organic-synthetic symbiosis goes to show, despite his misfires, he still wipes the floor with us when it comes to conceptual sci-fi.

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