How to Build an Android The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection

David F. Dufty

Henry Holt and Co.




288 Pages



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In late January 2006, a young robotocist on the way to Google headquarters lost an overnight bag on a flight somewhere between Dallas and Las Vegas. In it was a fully functional head of the android replica of Philip K. Dick, cult science-fiction writer and counterculture guru. It has never been recovered.

In a stranger-than-fiction story that echoes some of the most paranoid fantasies of a Dick novel, readers get a fascinating inside look at the scientists and technology that made this amazing android possible. The author, who was a fellow researcher at the University of Memphis Institute of Intelligent Systems while the android was being built, introduces readers to the cutting-edge technology in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sculpture that came together in this remarkable machine and captured the imagination of scientists, artists, and science-fiction fans alike. And there are great stories about Dick himself—his inspired yet deeply pessimistic worldview, his bizarre lifestyle, and his enduring creative legacy. In the tradition of popular science classics like Packing for Mars and The Disappearing Spoon, How to Build an Android is entertaining and informative—popular science at its best.


Praise for How to Build an Android

"[Dufty] ably describes the fertile, feverish atmosphere of intellectual endeavor, the kind of place where a crazy idea--like building a Philip K. Dick android--could take hold."--LA Times

"[Dufty's] reconstruction through interviews with the participants is an appealing depiction of brilliant minds dreaming big on shoestring budgets."--The New York Times Book Review

“You've got to love a book that includes physics-lecturing fish, android Einsteins, and researchers intent on building robot replicas of their wives and girlfriends. Not to mention Philip K. Dick himself. This is an instant classic of weird science.”--Alex Boese, bestselling author of Elephants on Acid and Electric Sheep

"This story is touching, absorbing and, ultimately, an exploration of what it means to be human."--The Spectator

“The best kind of popular science . . . Leaves you hungry to know more, and wondering at the possibilities that may lie ahead.” --Australian Bookseller & Publisher

“Literally incredible.”--The Age

"A highly technical story that Dufty manages to make intriguing and accessible to less tech-savvy readers...A fascinating story."--Kirkus Reviews

"Dufty engagingly chronicles the efforts of a team of roboticists to build an android modeled on science fiction writer Philip K. Dick...A fun read."--Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating and mind-bending book, written for the general reader, although experts in the field of robotics will find it particularly stimulating, and fans of Dick's oeuvre will be captivated by the whole idea of turning the legendary storyteller into a mechanical man."--Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

1. A Strange Machine
In December 2005, an android head went missing from an America West Airlines flight between Dallas and Las Vegas. The roboticist who built it, David Hanson, had been transporting it to northern California, to the headquarters of Google, where it was scheduled to be the centerpiece of a special exhibition for the company’s top engineers and scientists.
Hanson was a robot designer in his mid-thirties—nobody was quite sure of his age—with tousled jet-black hair and sunken eyes. He had worked late the night before on his presentation for Google
Read the full excerpt


  • David F. Dufty

  • David F. Dufty is a senior research officer at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Memphis at the time the android was being developed and worked closely with the team of scientists who created it. He completed a psychology degree with honors at the University of Newcastle and has a Ph.D. in psychology from Macquarie University.

  • David F. Dufty
    David F. Dufty