Now that I have completed season 1 of WestWorld, it is appropriate to take a step back and reflect on the meaning of it all. I feel as though I have been alluding to this throughout these blog posts, but it’s time to finally address the elephant in the room: AI. This clear theme is clearly the main topic they want their audience to grapple in, and it’s time for me to finally do so now.
I feel as though the show attempts to discuss three conflicts with AI: Their rights, their place in this world, and their humanity. It leads us to ask ourselves, seeing how technology is completely reshaping humanity, whether or not this is the path we want to continue taking. Soon, we will grapple even more with these questions, and WestWorld shows us what happens as we reach that point in human conflict.
Most of the robots and artificial intelligence in WW are clueless; they go about their “lives” being completely programmable and controllable by the humans, feeling absolutely nothing. However, a few droid characters have become increasingly self aware: Dolores, Maeve, and Bernard. These characters at first, confused by their onset of “feelings”, still passively respond to human control. However (especially in the case of Maeve), as they come to the realization that the humans are not actually “Gods”, they begin to question their roles and revolt against human control. They feel as though they have been entrapped by the lives they live, constantly being raped, abused, and manipulated by human control. But do they really “feel” these agonies the same way humans do?
Another question arises here: If these droids are capable of “feeling” these agonies, is it torture to leave them in their roles at WestWorld? While the purpose of their existence is already morally questionable, are they capable of knowing what it feels like to lose someone like a human does? Do they know what it feels like to be distressed, anxious, or saddened beyond how their code tells them how to “feel”? It’s also important to know that a lot of the reason why these droids specifically begin to become aware is because the humans put them in this position. Bernard was programmed to be intellectually superior to the other droids, and to be more humanlike (as only Dr. Ford knows he isn’t human). Maeve was made more intelligent by the butchers. So does this really give them the “rights” to these feelings?
By the end Dr. Ford pushes these considerations into the regular people. As he begins the droid revolution by inserting new lines of code into the robots so they can act more “humanlike”, the robots are now free to kill the humans. What Dr. Ford personally believes, we don’t know. He could’ve been doing it for park thrills, or to start a real revolution. Regardless, humanity will now have to decide the place of these robots, and soon, so will we in the real world.
Dr. Ford’s final salute, as if wishing the humans good luck in the new world he has created.