Wednesday, May 3, 2017
The Philosophy of West World - William Deaver Section 10, Installment 2
West World is a recently premiered TV show on HBO. It dives deep into what makes us human, and how our decisions are made. West World is a theme park for the wealthy to play out their western fantasies at the cost of around $60,000 a day. During this time the guests are allowed to do anything they want in this park as long as no other human is harmed. The park is populated with robots otherwise known as hosts. These hosts have false memories and identities (otherwise known as roles) planted inside their head. For them, they actually believe that they live in the old west and that everybody is human. A host can be configured to play the role of the Sheriff of the town, to being the criminal mastermind with a bounty on his head. If a host gets killed or damaged, they simply get taken out of the park and repaired without themselves knowing about it. All their memories get wiped at the end of the day and they repeat the same cycle.
The show asks the question if it is not only the hosts that are pre-programmed but the human guests as well. The question that is brought up near the end of the first season is if humans are any different. Are we truly making our own choices or are we destined to follow our “programming” based on our personality? Are we simply puppets or can we choose our own fate? Unfortunately, this is a question that is incredibly hard to answer. Since we cannot assess how we have made decisions before that they have happened, we can never truly know if we are making them or not. If we attempt to rebel against our normal personalities, how would we know that it is not how our personalities were in the first place?
Another topic that the show touches on is what rights an artificial being has. Is a human life worth more than an artificial life? Should robots and AI be protected by the law just as people are? If something can show emotion and intelligence, does that make it equal to a human? These are very important questions that will need to be answered in the near future. As science and technology advances, we will need to make a decision on how humanity addresses this topic. For the show, the park builds the hosts to mimic how the human body works. There are no wires, circuit boards, or metal, but instead, flesh and blood just as a human would have. For the park, this adds an added sense of realism and is so convincing that some guests have even fallen in love with the hosts. Despite this, the hosts have no rights. They are programmed to be harmless to the guests, even in cases of self-defense or protection.
West world is a show that is very rich in philosophical questions regarding what we are and why we decide to do what we do. Below I have linked a video going into further detail about rights of artificial beings:
Link to first installment:
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