An android is a robot or synthetic organism designed to look and act like a human, especially one with a body having a flesh-like resemblance.
Androids are a staple of science fiction. Isaac Asimov pioneered the fictionalization of the science of robotics and artificial intelligence, notably in his 1950s series I, Robot and Foundation and Empire. One thing common to most fictional androids is that the real-life technological challenges associated with creating thoroughly human-like robots – such as the creation of strong artificial intelligence – are assumed to have been solved. Fictional androids are often depicted as mentally and physically equal or superior to humans – moving, thinking and speaking as fluidly as them.
The tension between the nonhuman substance and the human appearance – or even human ambitions – of androids is the dramatic impetus behind most of their fictional depictions. Some android heroes seek, like Pinocchio, to become human, as in the films Bicentennial Man, Hollywood, Enthiran and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, or Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Others, as in the film Westworld, rebel against abuse by careless humans. Android hunter Deckard in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its film adaptation Blade Runner discovers that his targets are, in some ways, more human than he is. Android stories, therefore, are not essentially stories "about" androids; they are stories about the human condition and what it means to be human.
One aspect of writing about the meaning of humanity is to use discrimination against androids as a mechanism for exploring racism in society, as in Blade Runner. Perhaps the clearest example of this is John Brunner's 1968 novel Into the Slave Nebula, where the blue-skinned android slaves are explicitly shown to be fully human. More recently, the androids Bishop and Annalee Call in the films Aliens and Alien: Resurrection are used as vehicles for exploring how humans deal with the presence of an "Other".
Female androids, or "gynoids", are often seen in science fiction, and can be viewed as a continuation of the long tradition of men attempting to create the stereotypical "perfect woman". Examples include the Greek myth of Pygmalion and the female robot Maria in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Some gynoids, like Pris in Blade Runner, are designed as sex-objects, with the intent of "pleasing men's violent sexual desires," or as submissive, servile companions, such as in The Stepford Wives. Fiction about gynoids has therefore been described as reinforcing "essentialist ideas of femininity", although others have suggested that the treatment of androids is a way of exploring racism and misogyny in society.