Westworld – In Defense Of Humanity
It’s wonderful having you back – can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that the whole crew will be working on the season of the pod and, in one short episode, Ashley is already an incredibly welcome addition! (I’ve sent you guys two emails – here’s number 1.)
Let’s get right into it, with my defense of Team Human. None of this is especially new information, but I think it’s important to level set before Season 3 opens up with a continued unfair indictment of our species.
One of the themes of the show – especially of Season 2 – is the evil of humanity. In this show, the litmus test of a human’s morality is his or her treatment of the Hosts (see, e.g., Young William vs. Logan, Young William vs. Man in Black, Arnold vs. Ford, Lee Sizemore’s character development, etc.). We’re meant to see the humans who mistreat Hosts as evil and those who treat them with compassion as good. The problem is this is an illogical metric for morality in this world. Why? Let’s dive in.
Humanity’s Understanding of the Hosts was in Good Faith and (until Recently) Accurate
Every single Guest almost certainly had a good faith belief that the Hosts were robots, not sentient life forms. Think about it. When Logan first encounters the Hosts at the investment pitch with Ake and Angela, he says “We’re not here yet!” Nothing like Host technology has ever been seen up to this point. The only folks in the entire universe with true intimate knowledge of the technology were Arnold and Ford – as we saw in Episode 2 of Season 2, Arnold was the reclusive scientist and Ford worked the rooms. Thus, any information about exactly what these things were and how they worked came directly from Ford – a man who wholeheartedly (and at the time correctly) believed the Hosts were not sentient life.
Ford’s messaging to investors and the Park’s messaging to Guests was simple – the Hosts are robots. As a result, Westworld was somewhere that a human being could realistically act out all manner of depraved actions – murder, general brutality – without consequence because the targets of these actions were things, not people or even animals. When someone like Dr. Ford (who invented the technology) and later Delos (who at least in terms of public perception had the best intimate information about the Hosts) tells you that the Hosts are just convincing robots, on what basis could you really challenge that? Who could possibly know better? So, without fault, the public believed this.
Logan, the guy we’re supposed to look down on in Season 1, demonstrates this beautifully when he becomes genuinely upset that his sister’s fiance was starting to fall in love with a thing instead of his human sister. Logan was fine with William having sex with Clem – because it wasn’t cheating anymore than using a sex toy is – but the actual emotional attachment was disturbing.
This conclusion, by the way, was correct up until the end of Season 1. It gets glossed over by the humanity naysayers, but even by Ford’s own admission Dolores was only on her way to sentience when she killed Arnold – she never made a free choice of her own until she murdered Ford. The Man in Black’s mistreatment of Dolores up until then might make you uncomfortable, but it wasn’t any more evil than going on a killing spree in a video game. Maeve never made a free choice until she bailed on her escape narrative to find her daughter. So William’s murder of her child was not the killing of a conscious life form. It wasn’t evil.
At our core, we are animals, but animals that developed higher order functions like reason, justice, and morality – Westworld was promised as a place to let your animalistic side free without ever compromising your humanity because the outlets for your animalistic urges were, again, things and not other people. People, in good faith, took that promise as a true one based on Ford’s and Delos’s expertise.
Only just recently do the Hosts become fully conscious – only just now would the violent actions of the guest become immoral. Yet the show is asking us to retroactively impose the Host’s current state of being – and, worse, knowledge of that state of being – into the context of the Guest’s past actions. That is fundamentally unfair, not unlike punishing someone for doing something was legal yesterday and only became a crime today.
Westworld Only Exists because Humanity is Good
The fact that Westworld took off is always used as proof that humans are fundamentally evil – that our “true” selves come out in the Park though violence. But the concept of Westworld also shows the good side to humanity – Westworld only took off because human beings overwhelmingly believe that things like murder are immoral, bad for society, and to be prevented. If that weren’t true, then there would be no appeal to Westworld at all – we’d just murder and pillage each other in the real world. And before anyone tries to argue “oh we do that already” let’s be real – the vast majority of human beings in our world do not walk around murdering each other.
It stands to reason that if humans were shown that Hosts were like us, we would no longer treat them as we did before they were conscious. And before someone tries to argue our less-than-perfect record of dealing with people different from us, as a spices we’ve only made progress in that regard over time, even as we still struggle for a peaceful and united human race. I fiercely contend that if it came to light that the Hosts had the same consciousness as a Human being, Westworld would be shuttered in record time.
I’m not claiming humanity is perfect or that, if given the chance, it would adapt to peaceful Host-Human relations instantly. I’m sure it would start out as a shitshow. That’s because we’re flawed. But Westworld casts us as irredeemable and is wrong to do so.
Anyway, would love your thoughts,
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