In the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Phillip K. Throughout the novel, the plot revisits empathy and how humans and perhaps even androids are capable of it. The humans in the novel believe that lack of empathy is the main difference between the androids and themselves. The androids are thought to have no empathy or feeling towards anyone like humans do. However, with the release of the new Nexus 6 androids, which have the ability to learn empathy, the distinction between human's and android's empathy is difficult to understand. Knowing this, the question that comes to mind is whether or not androids can feel empathy or if it is purely a human trait. .
Empathy plays a role in Mercerism, which is the most popular religion after the war. It includes followers looking into a virtual reality device that allows the user to share an experience walking up a hill with Mercer himself while being bruised with stones and getting cuts that appear in real life. After reaching the top of the hill, the user experiences more torment and is eventually sent to the tomb world. The idea of the whole experience is to share the thoughts and feelings of Mercer, thus experiencing empathy. No android is thought to be able to share this experience with Mercer or any of the other users because it does not have empathy. .
Most of the human race flew away from Earth after World War Terminus. Each person who left to live on Mars was given a free Nexus 6 android to help them settle down in their new life. Eight of these androids killed their masters and escaped back to Earth. It's clear that the androids strive for freedom so they can live their own lives like humans are free to do. The androids can empathize with humans because they desire freedom. .
After World War Terminus, most wildlife died off from mysterious fatal dust. It was required that everyone took responsibility for at least one animal. Caring for an animal is considered to be empathetic.