Lies Inc by Philip K Dick, and other matters

Posted: February 9, 2013 in Chat
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One of the first Philip K Dick novels I read was Lies Inc, initially published in 1966 as The Unteleported Man. I was immediately hooked.

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The one image of the many I want to bring to mind, is that of the means the inhabitants of Whale’s Mouth, NewColonizedLand, used to scuttle earth’s colonisers.

For those who do not know the story, it is set far into the future. Lies Inc is an organization intent on creating a quiescent population. They do this by continually bombarding people’s minds telepathically with a feedback of personal memory mixed with inconsequent thought. The person cannot distinguish an original thought, or follow a through-line. They can conduct relatively easy tasks but are unable to question authority to any disruptive level.

The original inhabitants of Whale’s Mouth could not challenge the colonisers technologically so they picked up on Lies Inc’s techniques. The formed themselves into books; they comprised the life stories of whoever the readers were, and full of instantly recreated memories of the readers; most importantly, took the readers up to the present moment. The effect was that the readers became so enthralled in their own life story, a ‘take’ on their own life story, they became caught in a solipsistic loop, incapable of further action.

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This image has so many repercussive parallels in our culture. Do we see here the attraction of the soap opera, of the highselling magazines? The hook is in the ability to describe the life, making coherence out of the jumble of impressions, half-resolved tensions, aspirations based on rickety superstructures, the half-understood, and the ignored detail. But is it the ‘real’, the ‘true’ or even the ‘valid’ story?

This also is dialogue, with the protagonist of the book, and the antagonist of the memory. The book ie autobiography, as a memory-place. Memory-places are essential to us: our house, apartment, car even is a memory place. We decorate and ornament all with our own or combined personal effects. We live within mirrors, we feel comfortable there. It is not our image pleases so much as what we effect: that we can trace our place in time and space with these designs and objects.

Another way of seeing this is in our use of chiasmus, a device of two parts that relate to each other intimately. They relate either antithetically or sequentially: they parallel each other either inversely or directly. But they have a crossing point, a connection. You can find chiasmus in everything we make. Take music: listen to the patterning of counterpoint; but importantly the structure of a fugue by Bach; a symphony, even. Listen to the arch structures of Bruckner’s later works. There is the setting up of structures of phrases and musical relationships, and there is the restatement of key phrases and structural elements, changed perhaps, but only within the parameters set up in the first part. It is everywhere in architecture.

Our reasoning uses the same structures: think of dialectics. It is a form of two parts, intimately related: it sets up a tension, an interrogation, as in music, and holds it in harmonic relation. Think of the basis of argument, discussion.

Think of Shakespeare (if you must!). His Sonnets are full of struggle and tension. The root cause of this tension is the structure: he posits an argument, a statement of being, then complicates it with antithesis. The form, the Sonnet, is his resolution, a form that exists outside the personal world of the self; it is a statement of the tension, but not the thing itself: an artifact, that has its separate existence. This theme is another major theme through the Sonnets.

In his early plays we see him use chiasmus prodigiously; in Love’s Labours Lost it is a great piece of language-furniture. The form then goes through variation and development in the Sonnets, to emerge in the later plays as a major structural element. Look at MacBeth: both Lady M and M set out from antithetical positions, then diverge as events draw them, to end up in opposite camps. The language of MacBeth himself is full of chiasmi that express his feeling of entrapment within a structure of act and retribution: ‘Foul is fair, and fair is foul’. Contra-diction, frustrated movement, entrapment, one commentator states; MacBeth is ensnared by his reason, and what options it gives him; he has no way out.

From chiasmus to ring: is this from dialectic’s thesis and antithesis, to synthesis? Is the ring-structure that of the syllogism? It is still a trap, a gilded cage. If we look at the pioneering work in neuro-phenomenolgy of Professor Dan Lloyd we see similar forms: the sensory input, and the brain’s mapping create a back and forth response (as he puts it a ‘recursive recession’) that maps our body in space: the mind’s space. It is the superstructure of consciousness. We are forever trapped in our images that are and are not ourselves.

I have become very wary of dual-option thought: yes-no; this or that; up or down, Conservative-Labour. Think of the Matrix: this reality, or that one – that’s all, folks!

I want a way of thought that works on multiple bases and results in multiple possibilities. I want a way of thought more in tune with a multiverse, that allows more options.

There is a greater harmonic out there to tune to.

Time to move on, folks.

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Comments
  1. Agree very much about dual-option thought. Often leads to dichotomies, setting up barriers “us” and “them”, and finally to demonisation of the “other side”. But where does pluralism lead? How many options can humans handle at once? – I think I’ll just tuck in with a nice Philip K. Dick book and escape from all these questions…

  2. liminal city says:

    Gosh I read Lies Inc as a child and it blew my tiny mind, PKD’s stories have so many layers contained within them I find it hard to seek any clarity. Brilliant point, memory place as recursive trap, which reminds of the very iterative nature of social networking. Great stuff!

  3. Been chatting to a Prof of Architecture who’s very into applying his subject to everything. Very illuminating man. Look him up Donald Kunze.
    Good to see ya.

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