Philip K Dick’s Electric dreams

One of those paranoia books by Philip K Dick – The Secret History


This is a book filled with short stories exploring future technologies. It was the precursor to TV shows like Black Mirror and Altered Carbon. The majority of these short stories were written in the 1950s, just after the conclusion of the second world war. This was the spark that caused Philip K Dick to write about Science Fiction, as there was so much new technology that arose that it became fathomable that the world would keep on progressing at the rate that everything had during the second world war. Therefore, science fiction exploded as a genre as people became paranoid during the Cold War, as the main fear became that the “bad guys” had super powerful technology that they didn’t. Although the progression of technology did continue, it did slow down as there was no war that was driving the development of technology forwards.


Exhibit piece is the original name of the short story but it was adapted into Real Life for scene.

This story is clearly written in the 20th century and then placed 200 years into the future. The audience is given the historian who lives like someone from the 20th century, as someone the audience can relate to and act as a vessel for exposition.

The original short story was about a man who has invested his life into researching the 20th century. He was an eccentric professor who would dress and behave like someone from the 20th century even though he lived in the 22nd century. Then one day he has a breakdown and escapes to the VR exhibition piece that we has produced based on his research. Then chooses to spend the rest of his life there because he prefers it.

There is a stress, throughout this short story, on how free we were in the 20th century. Almost as a warning for the future, about privacy and freedom, and how we should have a right to both.


Real Life

This story leaves you questioning what is the real world.

At first you are presented with a policewoman from the future, who is getting too stressed out from her work. Then her partner suggests that she tries a new virtual reality simulation, that is based on her brain. Then a man wakes up, this man has been trying to avenge the death of his wife, and also had designed a virtual reality simulation headset. When he puts on this headset the narrative returns to the policewoman in the future.

Who is in who’s head?

Is the man living in the near future living in real life, or is the woman in the far future? This is something that will be relevant to us in the future as virtual reality games becomes more and more realistic, and the line between fantasy worlds and reality blur. If we are in a hyper realistic simulation, will we be able to tell? Would people get trapped in these systems? [*puts on a tinfoil hat* Would we be able to tell if we were already in one?]

This story opens up the debate about VR and how realistic we want it to be in the future. Normally, we don’t consider the social ramification of technology until it’s too late. We just blindly follow and invest in new technology without thinking how it will affect us. We are reactionary not active with our responses to new technology.  You can see this with social media and the internet. We had no idea how much it would change the world and how we interact with people.


All of this left me wondering: If history is written by the winners, then who will win this decade?


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