The Electric Ant is a short story
by none other than your favourite mind blower
, Philip K. Dick
. It can be found in volume 5 of his Collected Short Stories, entitled The Eye of the Sybil
As usual, Dick's up to his old reality-bending self. This is somewhat similar to his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in that both are concerned with androids who are not aware of their... what's the word? robotsicity? androidness? Perhaps it's artificiality... Never mind. You get the drift.
Anyway, the main character is a Mr.Poole, who finds out he's a robot, or a so-called electric ant after being in a car accident. He then takes a look at his insides, and finds a roll of punch tape inside. He soon discovers that this tape contains all of the sensory information he receives as input. Thus, reality can be altered for him if he punches new holes in the tape or covers olds ones.
As per Dick's usual obsession, the story discusses what is actually real and what isn't. Is all of reality subjective? More importantly, if it is, does it matter?
A more interesting idea which wasn't discussed in the story at all is the fact that if his entire life's sensory input was on the punch tape, this effectively means that his life was pre-programmed. Which, of course, means that Poole's discovery of the tape and his subsequent altering of it has also been pre-programmed. Perhaps this is a diatribe on free will?
In any case, this is PKD in top form. Read it, if you are able to (Which raises an interesting point; why would you not be able to? perhaps you are illiterate. In this case, PKD is the least of your worries. In fact, you can't even read this node. Thus, I am not speaking to you, and you, therefore, do not exist. Oy.)