The Struggle over Control of our Psychic SelvesEditThe struggle between Buster Friendly and Wilbur Mercer portrays the powerful influence technology has on humans, to which humans are often oblivious. These two characters, both products of technology, compete for humans' attentions and thus for control of humans' thoughts. This struggle represents the absolute control technology exerts on humans.
Using empathy boxes, humans fuse with Mercer as he incessantly attempts to climb a hill, while invisible non-believers throw rocks at him. By fusing with others and sharing a common experience, humans feel closer to one another, and thus can avoid their feelings of loneliness. Followers of Mercer believe he is "an archetypal entity from the stars" (Dick, 70). Conversely, Buster Friendly is a TV and radio personality, whose voice is continuously heard whenever the TV or radio is turned on. John first identifies the struggles between Friendly and Mercer when he expresses his annoyance that Buster is always ridiculing Mercer. John believes Mercer and Buster are "fighting for control of our psychic selves; the empathy box on one hand, Buster's guffaws and off-the-cuff jibes on the other" (Dick, 74-75). In this struggle, John believes Mercer will win because he is eternal and he is always renewed. However, John does not realize that Buster, too, is not human because he is able to record 46 hours of show each day.In the conclusion of this struggle, Buster reveals his big exposé on his show. Buster uncovers the artificiality of the landscape present in Mercer's world. Further, he identifies Mercer as, not a god-like figure, but a fraudulent, drunk actor from Indiana. The androids are particularly interested in Buster's exposé, and were aware of the exposé before it was aired. They think that by exposing Mercer as a fraud and Mercerism as a false religion, it will be revealed that the empathy box and the Mercer experience is used to prove that humans contain an empathic faculty and androids do not. Unlike humans, androids cannot experience group identity and empathy when using empathy boxes. Thus, if Mercer is fake and the experience is contrived, humans cannot establish they have empathy, and consequently, the classification of androids as non-humans fails (Dick, 211).
However, Buster's disclosure does not prevent humans from merging with him, much to the dismay of Roy Baty and the other androids. John and Rick both interact with Mercer following the exposé. Even though Mercer admits to John that he is a fake, John still reaches out to him and listens to his advice (Dick, 214). As Mercer says, "[the androids] will have trouble understanding why nothing has changed" because humans still want to believe in Mercer's power even though they know the whole idea of Mercerism is artificial (Dick, 214). If human believe that Mercer is fake and they stop merging with him through the empathy box, they might realize that perhaps they are not superior to androids if they cannot experience empathic responses.