Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
Feuer und Eis Adam und Gott
Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Westworld Episode 10 Review (Part Two)

Welcome to the dark end of the journey

Last time, Teddy had just finished saving Dolores from the Man in Black, who turned out to be William all along. He takes her to the coast because that was where he promised to take her when they were performing their pre-programmed loop. However, the coast is apparently not very far because as Dolores dies in his arms, Teddy starts reciting a campy monologue, and then shuts down while the board applauds the speech. Even when they’re trying to escape their loop, the robots still, somehow, find themselves trapped in yet another one of Dr. Ford’s narratives. Dr. Ford appears, addresses the crowd, then orders for Teddy to be cleaned up, and for Dolores to be taken to a nearby lab.

Moving on to Maeve, we start out by seeing her get a new body. All the details regarding how this is done are ignored. We see Felix and Sylvester constructing the body, and in the next shot, Maeve is back and ready to begin her escape. She recruits two other robots to go with her, but during their breakout, she’s informed that someone named Arnold has already been messing with her code, even going so far as to program her to wake up at will. This detail had been mentioned before, but now, Maeve wants answers, so she goes and finds Bernard. However, when she finds him, she sees that Bernard has shot himself. Fortunately, Felix is able to fix him, and when Benard wakes up he still has all his memories. He looks into Maeve’s code and finds that she’s actually been programmed to escape. Maeve doesn’t believe this and continues on with her plan, leaving Bernard to find Ford.

She works her way out of the facility, says goodbye to Felix, and boards a train. But just before she’s free of Westworld forever, she sees a mother and a daughter sitting together and decides she can’t leave. She returns to the facility to find her daughter.

Now, what is interesting about this sequence is that the episode shows us the tablet which has Maeve’s code, and on the tablet, we can see that she has been programmed to go to the mainland. So, in this instance, she actually breaks her programming by going to find her daughter. Granted her maternal impulses were programmed into her as well, but here I thought the writers actually got the closest they will ever come to explaining how a robot could, in theory, become conscious. I don’t think they meant to unless they’re much smarter than I’m giving them credit for. I think they were trying to pull at the heartstrings a little bit. But conceptually — although there is no explanation as to how this could happen in the show — if a robot has two competing instructions and is given no governing program that can choose between the conflicting orders, yet the robot, somehow, is able to make a choice between the instructions, then one could argue that the robot has achieved a level of consciousness.

In reality, the robot would probably glitch and would be unable to follow either set of instructions, but a clever writer could possibly create a scenario where a programmer begins building a consciousness within a robot by forcing it to choose between conflicting programs. And if the robot could find a way to make selections — again, assuming there are no preset instructions given to it to help make the choice — that could serve as a true bedrock for discovering a self. Not that I think this could ever happen, but I could see a coherent story coming out of the idea.

The writers got close to a truly interesting path for consciousness within this scene, but unfortunately, they don’t chase the idea any further. They chose to avoid the consciousness problem by saying that the robots have all been waking up for some time. Basically, Westworld is kind of a bait and switch. They tease you with the idea that you’re going to watch these robots come to life, but in this episode, the writers turn around and say that the robots have been coming to life for a while, so for some of the robots at least, the consciousness problem has been solved before the show ever began, but Ford has been repeatedly wiping their memories. It’s a shame. At the eleventh hour, they got close to a possible explanation for consciousness, but opted for a bait and switch instead.

God, Adam, and Consciousness

Returning to Dolores, she wakes up and finds Dr. Ford standing over her. Bernard joins them a minute later, and Dr. Ford gives Dolores an analogy to further elaborate on the idea that consciousness is not a journey upward but inward. He directs Dolores’s attention to a painting called The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. In this painting, God is reaching out to Adam to give him life or intelligence. For the purposes of this conversation, God is giving Adam consciousness. Ford points out that the red cloth behind God looks like a brain — if you squint really hard, and turn your head sideways — therefore, God didn’t create Adam, but Adam created God, so consciousness isn’t a journey upward but inward.

This is a dumb interpretation of that painting. For one thing, the red cloth shows up more than once in the Sistine Chapel, and it looks nothing like a brain. For another, some people have referred to this red cloth as a uterus of sorts and is meant to symbolize birth. Furthermore, God is outside of the cloth, not in it. So, it doesn’t make any sense to infer that God is being invented by Adam. If God were trapped inside the “thought bubble” as it were, then one might suggest God is a figment of Adam’s imagination, but the simple fact that God’s hand is reaching out to Adam proves he isn’t trapped or limited by this cloth. And for another thing, while some people have speculated that the woman in the painting is Mary, I think it’s obvious the woman is Eve. I mean, she’s looking right at Adam, and Mary doesn’t show up in any of the other paintings regarding creation, so why would she show up in this one? And she looks like the Eve from the other paintings in the Chapel! So, if the woman is Eve, and Eve is inside the cloth, did Adam make Eve up too? While in the garden, was Adam talking to a twig the whole time?

But no matter how asinine the theory is, Sir Anthony Hopkins says it. And his voice is like butter, so the interpretation makes an impression on Dolores. Consciousness is just neurons, apparently.

A Matter of Choice

Ford then shows Dolores the same gun she used to kill all the hosts and Arnold years before. Basically, he says that she needs to kill again, but this time, the murders have to be her choice, not a result of Arnold’s orders. Then he leaves.

Bernard and Ford have a final chat, and Ford explains to him that the robots needed misery and time, not necessarily to become conscious, but to understand their enemy. Ford doesn’t just want the robots to wake up, he wants them to take over the world. Ford shakes Bernard’s hand and goes off to give his final speech.

Dolores talks to herself. This sounds ridiculous, but the scene is meant to convey her finally becoming conscious. This time, the writers go with Bicameral Mind theory after all, having Arnold and Ford talking in her mind until the voices in her head become her own. Then she goes outside and shoots Ford while he’s giving his speech. Then she begins shooting all the board members.

As for William, he’s outside the main dining area where Dolores begins her massacre. While smoking, he hears rustling in the tree line beside him. He turns and sees all the decommissioned robots appearing from the brush. One of them shoots William in the arm. It’s using real bullets. William smiles. This time, the robots can play and win. I’ll give my final thoughts, in the next review.

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Westworld Episode 10 Review (Part Two)