Is this project an undergraduate, graduate, or faculty project?

Undergraduate

individual

Poster Session

Authors' Class Standing

Ethan Hale, Sophomore

Lead Presenter's Name

Ethan Hale

Faculty Mentor Name

Dr. Ashley Lear

Abstract

Philip K. Dick lead a life of constant uncertainty, questioning the nature and existence of reality through his many novels. Drawing upon Plato’s Parmenides and “Allegory of the Cave,” Dick provides countless examples of ontological crises faced by himself and his major characters. However, these same situations are exacerbated by additional veils set upon characters by other individuals through intentional manipulation in the form of gaslighting or brainwashing.

This paper draws upon situations of gaslighting, brainwashing, and ontological crisis from Dick’s major novels and philosophical writings to 1) better differentiate among these reality shifting concepts, 2) identify common response patterns by characters reacting to these distinct attempts to confuse reality, and 3) apply these findings to contemporary instances of psychological control using digital AI platforms.

By applying his characters' methods of assessing reality to our own struggles with information overload from AI algorithms intended to increase our consumption of select pieces of information, we found that Dick’s lifelong search for truth through his novels may actually offer some insight into the cyber-dystopias and political machinations of the twenty-first century.

Did this research project receive funding support (Spark or Ignite Grants) from the Office of Undergraduate Research?

Yes, Spark Grant

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What is Real?: Gaslighting, Brainwashing, and Ontological Crisis in the Works of Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick lead a life of constant uncertainty, questioning the nature and existence of reality through his many novels. Drawing upon Plato’s Parmenides and “Allegory of the Cave,” Dick provides countless examples of ontological crises faced by himself and his major characters. However, these same situations are exacerbated by additional veils set upon characters by other individuals through intentional manipulation in the form of gaslighting or brainwashing.

This paper draws upon situations of gaslighting, brainwashing, and ontological crisis from Dick’s major novels and philosophical writings to 1) better differentiate among these reality shifting concepts, 2) identify common response patterns by characters reacting to these distinct attempts to confuse reality, and 3) apply these findings to contemporary instances of psychological control using digital AI platforms.

By applying his characters' methods of assessing reality to our own struggles with information overload from AI algorithms intended to increase our consumption of select pieces of information, we found that Dick’s lifelong search for truth through his novels may actually offer some insight into the cyber-dystopias and political machinations of the twenty-first century.

 

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