Image Source: Pixabay
I don't expect readers to keep up with every single sci-fi series to hit the screen but if you are familiar with the show Westworld, you're going to be in for a real treat. Wait, scratch that... Even if you're not familiar, I'm going to make you familiar right now and possibly spark some interest in checking it out. Be warned, I will not be held responsible if a few spoilers come out through the course of this article so if you like the idea of a show with androids that look like humans interacting with humans in a wild west type theme park then go catch up with this show and come back and read this article when you are finished!
Ok, where to begin... I've already given away the fact that Westworld is a sci-fi fantasy set on a future Earth that is based around a greedy corporation's surreal western theme park. In the park you can choose your own adventure... If you want to be a homesteader go for it. Want to be a bank robber, give it a shot! Good guy or bad guy the wealthy guests of Westworld get their pick.
In the theme park they interact with robots that look and act just like humans. They are androids of the most advanced nature. They breath and bleed and are fully functional in every sense of the word. The only thing that seperates them from being human is the fact that they are dictated by programming and have a computer instead of a brain. And that little concept of a soul which going into that topic I'm afraid is simply beyond my pay grade.
Now, there are a few interesting points that may deserve a bit of exploration. Firstly, if robots like the ones in Westworld were real, would human beings use them in substitute of having a real relationship?
Would humans try to find companionship in machine and prefer it over their own kind?
Sorry to move so deeply into philisophical quandry without buying you a cup of coffee first but I'm afraid that we aren't in Kansas anymore, lets see how deep the rabbit hole goes, shall we?
Attention, spoilers ahead! Turn back if you don't want to be privy to juicy details before seeing this series for yourself!
When you watch Westworld series you will be amazed to see how man and machine merge is this sort of dystopian time machine of the wild west. The show provides examples of artificial intelligence in robots or ‘hosts’, they look almost identical in every way to us humans (but we still need to believe they are machines to make this little fantasy trip work!).
On the surface level hosts appear to be capable of forming complex and meaningful relationships with guests. When I refer to guests I mean guests of the theme park i.e. real human beings. Humans visit the park to meet physical and emotional needs that they may have trouble obtaining in the outside world. These experiences tend to boil down to sin, where guests explore their deepest sexual fantasies or most violent desires.
Of course, Westworld hosts are played by talented human actors, but developments in A.I. and Robotics are advancing rapidly in the real world. And although we won’t be able to create a robot like the hosts anytime soon, tech companies are already creating software to try to mimic a human, such as Google Assistant.
This is a very good point above. If you aren't aware how far Google Assistant has progressed let me take you to the building blocks of a real life Westworld, take a quick look at the clip below and then we'll continue:
So, lets take inventory real quick shall we? We just saw Google Assistant make an appointment with the girl on the other end of the phone being completely unaware she was talking to AI (an example of a real life host albeit without a physical body yet).
When we add that new technological marvel with the fact that there are brand new robots being designed and tested which can open doors, jump and even do somersaults we are clearly moving closer to Westworld type possibilities in the real world.
As tech companies build better and more sophisticated robots, it is plausible that they will one day create a version that is so close to appearing human-like, some people may decide to ditch human-to-human relationships altogether. There is mounting evidence to suggest that large swaths of society are shifting to a more reclusive lifestyle, with less human contact and interaction than ever before.
Well, I'd like to say that I will always prefer real human contact to something of an artificial nature. I like dealing with people of their own free will. Robot AI drones programmed to do my bidding sounds too close to slavery for my tastes and I for one believe in the universe dispensing karmic justice so the idea makes me cringe at the moment. I'll pass.
The idea of free will is quite an interesting one to explore in itself. How much of what we believe is truly based upon our own free will. Am I am who I am because I want to be or because I've been programmed by society to be so? How much of me is me and how much of it is societal programming? Am I just a herd animal?
These are good questions to do some self exploration and maybe even come to a breakthrough or two since we are on the topic right?
The creators of Westworld toy with the viewers’ minds on what it means to have free will. The AI robot hosts who have not achieved self-awareness do not realize that they are following a pre-programmed story-line created by humans. AI robot host Maeve exercised the first act of free will when she chose not to infiltrate the mainland and escape out of Westworld on the train in the finale of season one. Instead of following a predestined path, Maeve decided on her own volition to find her daughter.
This is an interesting concept to explore as well. Have you ever had an epipheny which made you reconsider your judgement of someone or something? Have you ever caught yourself judging someone and slapped yourself on the wrist with a warning that thou shalt not judge lest ye wish to be judged. Well I do believe we are sentient beings with the ability to make our own path, figuring out what we want is half the battle, the other half is simply acting upon it.
A major draw for Westworld’s human guests is the ability to live out any fantasy, no matter how evil, without any real consequences. Guests can choose to be good or bad characters. Is this choice of behavior exerting free will? Does free will absolve one of moral responsibility? Or does the perceived absence of moral judgment and consequences strip the guests of their façade and reveal the nature of their true selves? Is the AI robot creation, in effect, a mirror of the human condition?
Do we abuse technology? If we are sure it isn't sentient than it surely can't be abuse. I'm pounding away at the keys of this keyboard in full knowledge that the keyboard doesn't hate me, it doesn't have feelings or a soul. I can continue on with this long article (uhmm... rant...) without feeling guilt that I'm wronging someone. But if we make robots that are sentient and can truly feel, we must then give them rights and treat them as a new life form right? This is a slippery slope indeed.
I really do wonder if something like Westworld will exist in real life when scientists and engineers solve all the complex problems required in bringing it about. Would more human beings commit sin if they thought they could get away with it?
Are members of society simply restraining themselves due to the fear of punishment and judgement and if placed in a land with no law and order would they behave completely differently. I think Westworld hits on some very interesting themes and is taking a close look at the dark-side of humanity while presenting possibilities to evolve.
The closest thing we have at the moment to Westworld is Google Assistant which now seems to have the ability to schedule appointments without people on the other end realizing they are talking with a robot! What is around the corner in regard to AI and robotics I can only imagine...
I hope I haven't scared you by opening up this can of worms but I want to know if this theme excites you. If so, I'd like to proceed further down this path with future articles.
Thanks for reading.
Authored by: @techblogger
In-text citations sources:
"Could Westworld-like robots of the future be a solution for loneliness?" - Beyond Westworld
"How "Westworld" Ignites the Deep Thinkers Among Us" - Psychology Today
I am a technology writer and marketing advisor for the ADSactly Society: