Electric Sheep Distributed Screen-Saver: Collective Computer Unconsious

The Electric Sheep Distributed Screen-Saver taps into the collective unconscious of sleeping computers all over the world. When your computer sleeps, does it dream of electric sheep?


(From Electric Sheep)

Once you have downloaded the screen saver client to your machine, it activates when your computer is idle ("sleeping"). Once every fifteen minutes a new sheep, an animated fractal flame, is downloaded to all sleeping computers. The screen of each computer becomes a window into a visual space shared by all users. The client computers render jpeg frames which are then uploaded to the server. When the frames are ready, the server compresses them into an mpeg animation; client computers download the finished "electric sheep", presenting them on the screen in dreamy contemplation.

The program was inspired in 1999 in part by the SETI@home project; the name derives from the well-known novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. In the story, humans have devastated their world; most animals are dead, and most genetically whole people have left the planet. Those who remain may purchase mechanical animals - like electric sheep - and care for them as if they were real. Artificial humans (androids) are created to mimic people in every way. Do androids also dream of having their own animals? The novel was the inspiration for the movie Bladerunner.

Another interesting sf connection - Robert Heinlein created the idea for the screen-saver in his famous novel Stranger in a Strange Land, published in 1961.

See the Explanation of the Electric Sheep Distributed Screen-Saver for details; see sample "electric sheep" on the sample page.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/16/2004)

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