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The opening passage to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? reads:

A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.

From this passage I'm not sure how the mood organ works. At first glance it seems like the mood organ produces some sort of sound that "overcomes the threshold barring consciousness" to awaken the user, however, if it does emit sound why isn't Rick's wife, Iran, awakened along with him?

Rick points out to Iran: "You set your penfield too weak", which implies each mood organ is personal, but how do their piping sounds (?) not interfere with one another?

I was thinking maybe the mood organ doesn't actually emit sound, but rather pipes (through a pipe) "a merry little surge of electricity" into the body of its user like an electric current passing through the user's body.

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    PK Dick isn't particularly interested in how things work, as a rule. May 17, 2020 at 18:02
  • If I remember correctly, mood organs (or something similar) were described in his another book, we can build you, where someone builds an android Abraham Lincoln. Basically they were keyboard instruments that could alter the "listener's" mod in a subtle way
    – Yasskier
    May 17, 2020 at 19:59
  • I assumed it was piped as in 'directed', not as in 'music made by a pipe'.
    – Michael
    May 17, 2020 at 21:38

1 Answer 1

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It seems that Dick is borrowing this invention from his other book We Can Build You, which is a sort of a prequel to the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

In this book, a company that produces regular musical organs is in a bit of trouble:

"Louis," Maury said, "please look what our competitors have done. Electronics may be marching forward, but without us. Look at the Hammerstein Mood Organ. Look at the Waldteufel Euphoria. And tell me why anyone would be content like you merely to bang out music.

"No good musical instrument becomes obsolete," I said. But Maury had a point. What had undone us was the extensive brain-mapping of the mid 1960s and the depth-electrode techniques of Penfield and Jacobson and Olds, especially their discoveries about the mid-brain. The hypothalamus is where the emotions lie, and in developing and marketing our electronic organ we had not taken the hypothalamus into account. The Rosen factory never got in on the transmission of selective frequency short-range shock, which stimulates very specific cells of the mid-brain, and we certainly failed from the start to see how easy--and important--it would be to turn the circuit switches into a keyboard of eighty-eight black and whites. Like most people, I've dabbled at the keys of a Hammerstein Mood Organ, and I enjoy it. But there's nothing creative about it. True, you can hit on new configurations of brain stimulation, and5 hence produce entirely new emotions in your head which would never otherwise show up there. You might--theoretically--even hit on the combination that will put you in the state of nirvana. Both the Hammerstein and Waldteufel corporations have a big prize for that. But that's not music.

There is a reason to believe that "We can build you" is a prequel to "Do androids..." - the main theme of the former book revolves about building "synthetic humans" (which are already used to work on Luna) - or to be precise, electronic version of the American Civil War characters like Abraham Lincoln.

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  • Thank you so much!
    – Viktor
    May 18, 2020 at 2:41

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