The Bicameral Mind
My name is Seth, I’m a computer scientist from Texas. Really love the podcast, it’s greatly enhanced my Westworld experience in terms of keeping track of everything in the show as well as thinking about all the theories and ideas.
In my opinion, one of the best parts about Westworld is its dedication to the complex idea of consciousness and what that means for being a human. In “The Stray” (season 1), Ford talks to Bernard about Julian Jaynes’s theory of the origins of consciousness, “The Bicameral Mind.” Julian’s theory states that, not too long ago, humans were not “conscious” in the way they are today. They did not have a mental space in which to introspect, nor did they have a deep concept of “Self”. Instead, part of their split brain would feed the experience, instruction, and insight to the other part of the brain in the form of an auditory hallucination, and the bicameral people would hear these voices as gods. For a bicameral man, “to hear was to obey.”
In the Season 1 Finale, the Bicameral Mind, we see Dolores come to the end of her long and arduous journey of realizing the voices she’s been hearing all along (of Arnold, of Ford) to actually be herself. For Dolores, she reached full-on consciousness by discovering herself within the space of her mind to which she can now introspect and be “aware.”
As much as we are rooting for more hosts to become conscious and free, I can’t help but wonder if the path towards consciousness should differ between humans and hosts. Because their control units do not function identically to our brains, it seems that the paths should differ slightly. I would be a little disappointed if the end results were hosts with identical consciousness and agency as ourselves. Rather, I hope we get to see hosts on a new path that leads to a new end result which looks different that that of modern humans.
In a tangential thought: in Les Ecorches when Ford takes control of Bernard, he seems to be removing his free will and returning him back to an “unconscious, bicameral-mind” form, but it could also be interpreted as a literal possession. It’s not that Bernard is hearing his own voice in the form of Ford, no. It seems the consciousness of Ford is literally in Bernard and directly pulling the strings.
Would love to hear your thoughts. Keep up the good work,
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