Philip K Dick’s Ubik

“It seems so—negative. I don’t do anything; I don’t move objects or turn stones into bread or give birth without impregnation or reverse the illness process in sick people. Or read minds. Or look into the future—not even common talents like that. I just negate somebody else’s ability.”

Ubik deals with advancements different than what we’ve encountered so far this semester. First we have this idea that a company employs people who can block out another person’s special ability. The owner has a wife who is dead but not really dead. Really? A half-life gives a person consciousness and allows them to communicate on a limited basis. The plot is interesting because we are all led to believe that the owner, Glen Runciter, is the one who died in the explosion caused by his competitors. However, it is actually his employees who need the half-lives in order to survive.

I find it interesting that our study of this text is coming off the week that our class studied James Cameron’s Avatar. Similar to the humans trying to obtain unobtanium in order to survive, the characters in Ubik are looking for ubik, a product that seems to be their only hope for surviving the aftermath of the bombing. During my presentation, I posed the question about having the ability to live forever. Some people responded with “What would I do living forever?” Others wanted that ability because 1) it would take away the stress of knowing your time would one day be up and 2) it sounds pretty cool to be able to live forever and always get to experience new things.

My one question from the text has to do with the way it ends. Joe Chip becomes a currency and the last line in the text reads “This was just the beginning.” Why would this work end the way it does and what does it say about Dick’s perception of the future? Do we actually have a chance to live forever? It would change our ability to leave our mark on the world because we would always be around to leave it. Our contributions would be endless. The one downside may be that the human experience would be altered forever.


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