Westworld

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Westworld is a 2016 science fiction tv series created by JJ Abrams. One season with 10 episodes was broadcast in 2016, as part of an envisaged set of 5-6 seasons in total.[1]

Plot

Westworld is a futuristic amusement park where rich visitors ("guests") can participate in complex fantasies. The park is home to what are referred to as "hosts", a type of artificial intelligence based faux humans (or androids). Whilst the park contains many western related gun-slinging story lines, much of the appeal comes from the immersiveness of the experience. This allows for casual sex and violence against the hosts, as well as for participants to discover and explore features of their personality which are normally suppressed. One of the characters (William) comments at one point,[2]

I used to think this place was all about pandering to your baser instincts. Now I understand. It doesn't cater to your lowest self, it reveals your deepest self. It shows you who you really are.

Due to the design of the park, guests cannot be killed due to interactions in it, but they can experience pain and many other visceral reactions. Hosts who are killed are cleaned up by human technicians overnight and placed back into the park to relive their scripts.

Transhumanist Elements

  • There is what appears to be a combination of tissue engineering and programming used to create the android hosts.
  • The question is explored of "how does consciousness arise?" - what else is involved in consciousness, beyond memories and intentions?
  • Could android hosts gain consciousness as a result of unintended interactions from new software upgrades fed into them? Is consciousness something that may emerge from unexpected and unplanned circumstances? How fully should software upgrades of AI systems be tested before being introduced?
  • As the human designers of the hosts begin to suspect that some hosts are gaining consciousness, they experience strong moral dilemmas over whether these hosts should contain to be subject to the pains and horrors of the scripts assigned to them. Should these hosts be taken out of service and decommissioned, or what?
  • Westworld raises questions in regards to the simulation hypothesis, wherein some of the hosts begin to question the world they are living in ("I think there may be something wrong with this world"), suspecting that they might be the creations of 'gods' from another plane of existence
  • Hosts believe they are the author of their own thoughts and volitions, and are distressed to learn that these come from programmes deep inside themselves planted by human scriptwriters
  • In an echo of the AI Control Problem, one host seizes an opportunity to alter its programming, changing its own personality and capabilities, making itself a more formidable character, increasingly beyond the control of the human overseers of the park
  • Westworld also raises questions over the power of memories: hosts can experience past memories so vividly that these memories cannot be distinguished from "present" reality, challenging assumptions about the flow of time
  • Plenty of sex robots[3]
  • Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) at one point references the eradication of disease and the fact that people can be kept alive, hinting at a longevity element to the world. In a review of Episode 7 of Westworld, a Screenrant article also mentioned the following:
"It’s safe to say that Westworld’s technology boasts a great many real-world applications, from military to medical and beyond. Earlier in the series, Ford spoke to Bernard about the apparent eradication of disease... but he mentions the next phase may well be the ability to bring the dead back to life." [4]

Criticisms

  • The story line spans thirty years, but there is little improvement in the power of the artificial intelligence over that period. This is at variance with common transhumanist assumptions about the accelerating pace of development
  • In a very small number of cases, when deviations from their normal host programming occurs, human guest visitors to the park can be killed as a side-effect of accidents. But it is unclear why the number of such accidents is so low, despite the many bullets that are exchanged in multiple gunfights. No explanation is provided for this kind of near-indestructibility
  • DevOps best practices are not followed[5]

External Links

References