My wife and I have been following HBO’s Westworld since its first episode last year. We’ve “met” Maeve and Teddy and the Man In Black, and of course Bernard and Delores, along with many assorted others, and followed their adventures in a complex milieu which makes the original 1973 film look like kindergarten by comparison. Indeed, a shocking event which terminated the first season would have led one to believe that a major and possibly insuperable monkey wrench had been thrown into Westworld’s works. Oh, ye of little faith!
It is in the second season where we discover that a far deeper, well hidden, and considerably more insidious purpose lies beneath the superficial tableaux of the Wild West, Land of the Shoguns or Road to India we have initially been presented with. Most especially, we learn that people may not be what they seem, down to whether they are actual human beings or cyber-bio-mechanical “hosts” like Delores and Teddy. We learn that the cognitive and other abilities of these hosts can be throttled in multiple parameters, which should instantly have alerted anyone who remembers the comment of Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: “…life will not be contained. Life breaks free … Life finds a way.” And indeed, it doesn’t seem to matter whether that life evolved naturally or was engineered into existence; that way gets found. The revolution WILL be televised … on HBO.
Oh, but the real, core purpose behind what appears on the surface of this massive theme park, that is where your humble narrator wishes to put his focus. Through multiple episodes of this story, we have seen how hosts are injured or killed and brought back to life with what seems to be little more than routine repair work. But then we discover that there have been experiments on recreating actual human beings with memories and abilities intact. This line of research initially appears not to have been particularly successful, but then the timeline is tricky and deceptive, and the state of the art in the here and now is to the point where not only can they recreate old personalities; they can port human consciousness directly into a host.
To accomplish that, we are talking about a price tag which would be hugely out of reach of the average Joe, even as a visit to Delos is beyond the reach of most of the world (the original entry fee in 1973 was $1,000 a day). It would however be within the reach of those who populate the “One-Percent.” The David and Charles Kochs, the George Soroses, Bill Gates, and yes, the Donald Trumps of the world would have access to extremely capable bodies which would either never wear out or, in case of accident, be easily replaceable. The level of host sophistication being what it is, any required maintenance could be accomplished by other hosts, virtually eliminating the need for human intervention.
Now ... consider the implications of that development:
Sounds like some billionaires’ fondest wet dream, doesn’t it? And yet there are multiple flies in this honey pot, not the least of which is Maeve’s ability to control the minds of other hosts, never mind the aforementioned personality parameter tweaks, which could conceivably turn the most ambitious Type-A personality into Homer Simpson with the touch of a slider. Is it possible that co-creator Robert Ford has seen the threat from the superrich and Delos is his offensive against it? Or is the endgame something else entirely?
About all I can say this this: it doesn’t matter whether you hate the moneyed mavens of Wall Street or are less than sanguine about the implications of General Artificial Intelligence, there is plenty to be disturbed about in the all-too-conceivable future which is Westworld.