A great big “Thank You!” to Cal State Fullerton for hosting the 2016 Philip K. Dick Conference. The event was organized by the Acacia group and pillared by Fullerton’s department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics, in the college of Humanities and Social Sciences. If it sounds like quite an academic mouthful, you ain’t foolin’!
I was fortunate enough to get my proposal accepted, and delivered a talk entitled “When Is Intelligence Artificial?” on the history and application of artificial and natural intelligence, through the lens of Phil Dick’s writings. My companion speaker was Yale University’s own Palmer Rampell who gave a talk entitled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Fetuses? The Android and Roe V. Wade (1973)”
Though covering rather different material, our talks did converge strongly on the subject of personhood, its applications and implications. The question was whether human beings were the only beings considered people. The consensus seemed to be that humans could not possibly be the only persons in the world. We asked what a non-human person might be, and came up with compelling thoughts. Is a dolphin a person? How about a house pet? Why not an android? Isn’t a human with artificial organs part android?
After the talks, we fielded questions for a satisfying discussion session. Over a dozen people stayed for the Q & A and the discussion was so engaging we ran over, cutting a little bit into the keynote address by Dr. Ursula Heise. But I don’t think she minded that we kept a few of her audience members lingering.
I was also thankful to meet up with friends and colleagues, many of whom I seldom get the chance to see. Of course, Total Dick Head and editor of Pravic Magazine, David Gill was at the conference. He gave a standing room only lecture entitled, “Dick: Self-Promoter,” on Dick’s skills and tactics in the promotional arena. I at least had the presence of mind to get a picture with The Total Dick Head himself, David Gill. I believe you can see how pleased I am.
I was in a very Dickian way struck by some of the fickle vicissitudes of reality during this excellent weekend of scholarly pursuit and artistic display. While in Orange County, I lost my wallet and didn’t realize it until about 2 hours before my presentation. Talk about a curveball! I mean, the whole wallet – and it’s still gone! The cash, the IDs, the credit card, the museum memberships!
It was a real test of the art of relaxation, putting all of the lost-wallet thoughts out of my head long enough to focus on Phil Dick and artificial intelligence. But even though my thoughts were tempted to puzzle over how I was going to get on the plane home with no ID, a special imperturbable centeredness settled over me as I approached the moment of truth. All was well.
I didn’t stay for all of the ancillary events, including dinner that night and partying the night before. I was in southern California on a dual purpose for this trip, and all of my non-conference time was monopolized working on a new book/music project with L.A. based collaborator and partner in crime, Ryan Hurtgen. Yes, expect another book from me this year!
And here is me, beaming with my badge! Each presenter is given a name badge which also lists their academic/university affiliation. I love my name badge because I am designated as an “Independent Scholar.” Sweet freedom, babee!!
Thank you for reading! Reading rules!
For more information about the conference: