The kipple is the "thing" that, walking the streets,
we see on the ground but we do not know exactly what it is,
or rather what it was: perhaps a piece of a bumper,
of an umbrella, of an ice cream spoon,
if it is plastic, metal or fabric,
with molded smooth edges or rough ones for the break-point.
The streets of every city are strewn with amorphous fragments,
escaped the garbage but in any case not recyclable,
moved in space by the passage of a car
or by a gust of wind stronger than usual,
handheld briefly by curious children
before their mothers told them to throw away it
saying "do not pick things off the ground."
Without a purpose, the shape unusable,
the kipple takes part, indeed it has a perennial farewell
from the universe of things that humans produce and use;
subjected to the action of weather and using
it is the first line to fall in the war of everything
against the inevitable entropic matter's destiny.
The kipple is also a messenger, a time traveler from the future
telling a truth that no one wants to hear:
all the matter, sooner or later, breaks up, transforms,
returns to the shapeless state from which for a short period
it was torn by the genius of the man who organized it,
first with the thought and then with the hands,
to meet a need, to chase a desire.
Ironically, if the man is not a mistake of evolution
but one of the steps towards the complexity
and man in turn produces unconsciously and naturally kipple
the circle is closed and disorder back to the disorder.
Kipple is a word coined by the remarkable science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.
It refers to the sinister type of rubbish which simply builds up without any human intervention. Eventually, one day, the entire world will have moved to a state of kipplization.
From Phil Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"
JR - Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.
Pris - I see.
JR - There's the First Law of Kipple, "Kipple drives out nonkipple." Like Gresham's law about bad money. And in these apartments there's been nobody there to fight the kipple.
Pris - So it has taken over completely. Now I understand.
JR - Your place, here, this apartment you've picked - it's too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apartments. But -
Pris - But what?
JR - We can't win.
Pris - Why not?
JR - No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.
Kipple seems to be a combination of entropy and capitalism.
I don't think past civilizations had the resources to produce so much packaging
to hold our stuff until we buy it or consume it.
Don't forget the First Law:
"There's the First Law of Kipple… 'Kipple drives out nonkipple'."
Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot.
According to the philosopher of kipple in the novel, J.R. Isadore, "the entire universe is moving toward a state of total, absolute kippleization." Physicists will note the similarity to the concept of entropy, which is most usually taken to refer to the tendency of closed systems toward increasing disorder.
I like the definition taken from classical thermodynamics, that entropy is a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work. In the 21st century, we seem to be working as hard as we can to take available resources and transform them into objects that cannot be used for anything (kipple). We are doing this socially as well; by using welfare, we encourage our human resources not to do work, either. If we can recycle paper, we can recycle people, too.
Are you having a little problem with kipple where you live?
Maybe you need the high tech trash can from Islands in the Net, by Bruce Sterling
"Is there a relationship or correlation between kipple and noise? Audible kipple? Does noise somehow accumulate the way kipple does? If so, what does it leave behind? "
( 4/28/2004 4:41:22 PM )
"Interesting thought. Urban environments have a lot of "waste noise" (as opposed to useful noise, like the sound a garbage truck makes when it backs up!). However, noise tends to dissipate; it is absorbed by objects and is attenuated by its passage through the atmosphere. Unlike kipple, which never seems to go away. On the other hand, Frederick Brown wrote a stunningly original story called The Waveries in 1945, in which sounds had a life of their own. (Philip K. Dick called that story one of the best he ever read.)"
(Bill Christensen 4/28/2004 5:45:03 PM )
"Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was not "Published by Del Rey in 1968." It was published in 1968 by Doubleday. Del Rey is one of the paperback reprinters who eventually issued it, though not the first. (Got it, thanks! -Bill)"
(Gregory Feeley 7/10/2005 8:17:49 PM )
"E-waste seems a lot like specific kipple to me. Objects that have outlived their usefulness and cannot be recycled and as such, have nowhere to go but on the floor."
(Mysterious Bill 3/23/2010 5:51:47 PM )
"The analogy of Kipple to the social products of a welfare system is quite repulsive. It brings an unnecessary socially normative dimension into the trash-definition as intended by Dick. "
(Boris 3/19/2012 4:18:56 AM )
"Just realized a more horrifying concept - Kipple that can create more kipple, self-replicating waste. "
(Gatomon41 4/23/2013 10:36:32 PM )
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Don't look, but chances are there's kipple hanging around your life somewhere right now.
No, no, it's not you specifically—it's just that kipple is everywhere, because it's the representation of decay and degeneration in physical form. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it's really everywhere. World War Terminus has left our home planet in an awful mess: entire cities have been leveled, radioactive dust is getting in everyone's hair, and people have left the planet to go seek a new existence in the space colonies—leaving behind all their stuff. As that stuff rots and decays, it becomes kipple.
Isidore describes it:
"Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more." (5.23)
So, in other words, just like the dishes in our sink?
We kid, we kid. But that does give you an idea of what this means. The decay of an entire planet or species might be too much for us to fully grasp, but we experience the disrepair of consumer goods in our everyday lives. Anyone who has ever maintained an attic, rented out a storage unit, or had a locker can tell you how true this is. As we collect stuff, and the stuff just spreads out, growing in number, expanding the mess as it goes, bringing disarray into our lives with a tsunami of junk.
Is there hope against this state of decay? Maybe:
"No one can win against kipple," [Isidore] said, "except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over." (5.31)
Maybe it's time to buy a tiny house.
About 3 months ago photographer Dan Tobin Smith set up a website to ask the public to donate kipple: junk that was lying around their house. “It’s time to free yourself of the pointless or unused objects in your life,” read the plea. “Give them a purpose as part of Dan Tobin Smith’s installation for the London Design Festival 2014.”
Sure enough, the donations began coming in and in no time at all Smith had enough junk on his hands to create a sprawling installation that filled an entire floor and mezzanine, “carpeting 200-square-metres with a dense, precise, chromatically-themed arrangement of thousands of objects.” The objects are so carefully placed that gradients seem to blend together seamlessly.
The fictional word Kipple was coined by science fiction writer Philip K Dick. Kipple appears in his 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (the film adaptation was Blade Runner) and is used to describe useless, pointless stuff that humans accumulate. It served as the inspiration for Smith’s installation “The First Law of Kipple,” which was part of London Design Festival this month.