Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? | Study Guide

Philip K. Dick

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? | Chapter 5 | Summary



Rick Deckard attaches a sensor to Rachael Rosen, and sets up a light to shine in her left eye. He asks her several emotionally charged questions. Rachael's answers display appropriate emotions until the final question. Deckard concludes she is an android. Her uncle says she isn't: the odd response comes from her having been raised aboard a spaceship, rather than on Earth. The Rosens argue the test is flawed and deny him the chance to test Nexus-6 androids. They also filmed the test, so he can't deny it. They start the process of trying to bribe him with an owl. As they are negotiating the bribe, Rachael keeps calling the owl "it." Deckard realizes he was right the first time: she is an android. He asks another question and confirms it. Rachael hadn't known, though, and she is shocked. As Deckard leaves, he realizes she is a Nexus-6, and therefore realizes how hard they will be to detect.


In 1950 Alan Turing, one of the creators of the computer, proposed something that has become known as the "Turing Test." It is a way of determining if a computer or intelligent machine can actually think. In this test, someone asks a human and a machine the same questions, comparing the answers. This test has become part of popular culture. In this chapter, Philip K. Dick proposes an alternative. He assumes computers will be intelligent and will think as well as humans do. However, he proposes they won't be able to feel, and that is how one can distinguish between human and nonhuman intelligence.

In this chapter, Dick shows Rick Deckard acting on this distinction between a human and an artificial person. He also shows something very important for the novel and this debate: Deckard succeeds in identifying Rachael Rosen as an android when the formal diagnostic test had failed. This is something people are better at than any formal mechanism, and Deckard in particular. His ability to detect empathy, or its absence, in others is part of what makes him a hero.

This chapter also establishes the theme of corporate corruption, because the Rosens intentionally set Deckard up, making sure his test would fail when testing Rachael, then filming it so they can blackmail him. Even the bribe the company offers is corrupt: they offer him an owl, which they later admit is artificial.

Finally, this chapter establishes a plot thread that turns out to be a red herring. Rachael claims not to know she was an android before this test. However, later in the book she talks about how she manipulated several bounty hunters by sleeping with them. This suggests a complicated mindset for the corporation and Rachael: they are lying about her lack of knowledge, and have set up layered false realities to confuse Deckard. And they do succeed in confusing him. He identified Rachael as an android but couldn't tell she was lying to him.

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