wander the sea

The hosts are not real


 

We speak the right words, and create life—out of chaos,” Ford says. “You can’t play without being acquainted with the devil.

The mind of a human is complicated; it’s filled with cells, nerves, connectors and concepts less tangible: memories and stories we tell ourselves over and over. Those layered parts make up a human mind. When a robot is made in our image, programmed to have similar characteristics, there’s always a final piece: consciousness, that sense of awareness that is either a result of those layered parts or the initial piece of constructing a sentient being, one who has the ability to distinguish between the different levels of morality on its own. Philosophers throughout history have struggled to define the nature of consciousness. If indeed consciousness is a mechanistic output, then it’s possible AI can mimic this output, even in its basic form.

The engineers at Westworld, essentially built computers in the form of humans, from scratch, coding their individual narratives.  At the helm is the pragmatic Ford, the AI creator at Westword, a western theme-park. He understand that controlling the AI (hosts) while also giving them a natural quality warrants some risk, but believes he can control them. When he explains his reasoning for applying reveries to the hosts, he tells Bernard, “You’re a product of a mistake…evolution creates mistakes.” The creator insists that guests come back because of the subtleties of these characters and their interesting storylines. Guests want to be the first to discover those subtleties, and possibly fall in love with those characteristics. Guests may know who they are, but they go to Westworld to get a glimpse of who they could be in an alternative world that’s filled with danger. Some hosts seem happy being idle and picking easy characters to interact with, others like the man in black, need to find purpose and control in a game that is meant to trick new visitors.

Though we keep hearing these artificial creatures are not real, they are too lifelike for us not to become enchanted as the guests do, and we end up rooting for them to escape. What’s scary is how often science fiction predicts future technologies. Realistically we’re not far from creating this type of AI.  But the questions gnawing robotic engineers has always been how to create artificial consciousness. Westworld seems to go further by adding that if true artificial consciousness was possible it would be a cause for alarm, especially in a world where the hosts are not supposed to be free, but subservient to the guests (the real humans).

Dolores, one of the oldest AI (host) from Westworld.

 

We see the hosts through the eyes of the guests, but also the lab workers who interview them and update them with their touch screen pads. The hosts and lab workers don’t run parallel lives, since the background of the hosts can be altered during review sessions, making it possible to erase their memories. The hosts consider morality, but their deaths are not final, they simply get fixed after being “killed.” The only real death is decommission.

Westworld dives not only into the realm of humans building AI, but the implied ethical questions, especially when the hosts go rogue, disobeying their narrative boundaries. Westworld is a made up world, yet everything seems so real. What does it mean to be human? Do AI have rights? Do they have free will? Do the guests have free will? They too are control by the boundaries of the park. Finding control within the game is an illusion, because the real decisions come from the creators, the masters of code.

As proposed by Hegel, it’s evident that the timeline of history shows us there’s a movement towards freedom, true freedom. Individual have come to understand and master the world of illusions we created for ourselves or others. He believed that humans created God, to pretend that God created us so someone could be responsible for us. This may not be a mistake necessarily, but it demonstrates we are the creators of our own narrative, no matter how deluded it turns out. We turned the idea of God into a convenient story, filled it with commandments and rules, that we sometimes don’t understand or obey. We are the slaves of our own deluded fiction, and Ford is no different. He says, “Self-delusion is a gift of natural selection as well.”

In one of the earlier episodes we find out about the original creator, Arnold, who had devised a pyramid to explain the AI’s internal workings: memory, improvisation, self-interest, but the top was left blank. Ford explains, “He had a theory, based on the Bicameral mind. The idea that primitive man believed the voice they heard was the word of god. It was the blueprint for building a cognition mind. Their own voice would later take over.”

Ford values the art of creating interesting storylines, and indulges in watching the AI integrate a nuanced narrative. This behavior pattern of Ford, foreshadows the final moments of the first season. In the last episode, Westword seems to be driving this point home: the real god is the human mind. If the second season carries the theme of chaos, it seems evident we will witness most of the hosts making independent decisions apart from the creators, a true slip of evolution’s leash.

 

 

 

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