Friday, March 2, 2012


I doubt a whole Hell of a lot of you were reading IllCon all the way back in May 2009, but for those of you that were, I have good news. I am happy to present (partial) closure to an open-ended case I alluded to back then, a fascinating, confusing, and maddening mystery I first explored in a post titled 'IN CASE YOU DON'T KNOW DICK, Or: The Android Was Never Located'. The post, which was meant more as a tribute to one of my favorite science-fiction writers (Mr. Philip K. Dick) than any sort of whodunnit, contained a nugget of weirdness that was left hanging in negative space until just now, in a sort of full-circle "happy ending" taylor-made for Hollywood. But I'm getting a"head" of myself. Let's get the noobs caught up:
The most interesting part of the entire post, in retrospect, was a quick aside I made about halfway through, which read thusly: "Side note: As a promotional gimmick for the 2007 film adaptation of A Scanner Darkly, a robotic doppelganger of Dick (above) was constructed to participate in a panel discussion at the 2006 ComicCon in San Diego. Reportedly, the android was "lost in transit" by America West Airlines personnel. It has yet to be located."

The Robot Dick, created by Hanson Robotics (they've also created a Robo-Einstein), is truly a marvel, and can be seen in two stages of development in the video below:

PKD Robot at NextFest Chicago (2005):

So let's get the skinny on exactly how PKDBot got "lost". Wired and BoingBoing both reported on the mysterious happenings, but here is a chunk I found on the always-reliable And I Am Not Lying, For Real:

PKD was a tremendous hit at Wired's NextFest, 2005. Several months afterward, David Hanson and his astonishing creation were on a flight from Dallas to San Francisco. PKD's body was travelling separately, but his "brain" and head were part of Hanson's carry-on luggage. Hanson had not slept for several days, and immediately passed out upon buckling his seatbelt. Hanson was shaken awake by his plane's crew in Las Vegas for an unexpected plane change.

Next up, from the New York Times:

He had been traveling for weeks, pulling all-nighters in a race between his work as a roboticist (he also made a much-discussed robotic head of Einstein); as the founder of a fledgling company, Hanson Robotics; and his doctoral work. But unlike his creation, Mr. Hanson is, apparently, distressingly human.

"They woke me up, I got my laptop from under my seat, and being dazed, I just forgot that I had the robot in there," said Mr. Hanson, referring to the head in a black, American Tourister roller bag, left in the overhead compartment."

He rushed off in a sleep-smeared stupor, only remembering that he left the head behind sometime after his second liftoff. The airline claimed that they shipped the head back to him, but a package never arrived.
Philip K Dick's android head is missing, possibly stolen.

Bummer! Can you even imagine the frustration of "accidentally misplacing" a labor of love like the Dick Head?! Hanson obviously blew that one, but here's where that "Hollywood ending" I spoke of earlier comes in. Apparently, the Dutch company VPRO put up the dough for Hanson Robotics to build a leaner, meaner, smarter DickBot in 2010, and the new machine has already surpassed its predecessor in all manner of sophistication and logic. Work continues on the "new" PKD Robot, and judging by the new color in his beard (see below), he is more vibrant and alive than ever. (More about the Android Project HERE)
But still, the question remains: what the fuck really happened to the "original" android? The mind shudders at the possibilities...

(Pay close attention to the very end, when PKD assures his interviewer that "he'll keep him very safe in (his) people zoo".)

Pro tip: A much more entertaining version of the Recovered Head Story can be found HERE via Fiction Circus ("The missing head of the Philip K. Dick android has finally been discovered in St. Petersburg, confiscated in an Interpol sting against the Russian software piracy syndicate Little Bear."). I actually thought this story was real until just recently (you would have thought the site name--"FICTION CIRCUS"--might have tipped me off). Durr.

True story, guys: when I started writing this thing today, I had no idea that 3/2/2012 is the 30-year anniversary of Philip K. Dick's death. Damn. Talk about some next-level lattice-of-coincidence-type synchronicity! Thanks to purplerainingblood for the accidental "head"s-up.

Speaking of Dick Heads:

Who's ready for Episode 25 of Illogical Contraption Radio?!
We'll be on the air--same bat time, same bat channel--tonight, fielding your drunken telephone calls (415-829-2980) and talking with public access television host Adam Papagan of Del Talk Show. Adam is a close friend and collaborator of previous guest David Liebe Hart, and has many a story to tell about the strange underbelly of post-9/11 Los Angeles. Join us, won't you?


Jason said...

The link to the '09 post is broken. Dick head.

Shelby Cobras said...


Jason said...

THanks man!

The Quark Observer said...

David is trying to give robots empathy, good luck right?

I had a "friend" on facebook before I deleted it who was friends with the designer Dave's wife and he is a Thelemite. I posted something about this bot once and this Thelemite guy (really cool dude from the little I knew about him)... anyways he was friends with Dave's wife (the creator of the robot) and as far as i can tell (not 100% sure) she is a Thelemite also... I don't know if Dave is or not, and I am not a Thelemite.... but IMO it's better then being a lot of other religious I can think of.... I mean for trying to teach empathy to robots for Crowleys Sake!

In simple terms, I could see that philosophy/religion help open up a better communication with a robot.

Aylmer said...

Does the head dream of electric sheep? :(