on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 20 Dez

Reflections on Westworld

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags:  | 3 Comments

Having just viewed the new HBO series, Westworld, I am struck by an enduring theme: the cruelty of humans as expressed by the evolution of consciousness in the inhuman. This idea goes back to the early days of science fiction, to writers like Asimov, Bradbury and Phillip K Dick. Always it is a way to reflect on what makes us human. The humans in Westworld, both the visitors and the creators, have little or no empathy for the „hosts“, the robots who people this artificial world. They are used, abused and as they begin to develop memories and self awareness, tortured by the knowledge of their existential condition. For they are living in a kind of purgatory, a kind of Groundhog day without redemption, where they are condemned to relive the same loops over and over without mercy, without end. It shouldn’t matter, as they are reset every night. However, it is the virus of memory that begins to wake them.

Without memory, perhaps we too would be soulless creatures, condemned to eternal repetition of the same mindless patterns, much like the player piano that begins each episode. Without memory we wouldn’t have self awareness because there would be no internal narrative to inform consciousness. Without memory to reflect on, there could be no empathy for ourselves or others. Without memory, empathy, or compassion, our lives too would drift aimlessly without purpose or direction. And without these, there would be no love.

Gurdjieff liked to say that most human beings aren’t human – they are mere automatons, machines driven by unconscious patterns formed through early experience. Most people sleepwalk through life, reacting to stimuli, programmed to act in knee jerk fashion to new experiences which unconsciously remind them of the past. According to Gurdjieff, only through the process of self remembering can we begin to break the cycle, to unshackle ourselves from William Blake’s „mind forged manacles.“

This waking up process that is the driving force behind Westworld and its predecessors, (Battlestar Galactica, and of course Bladerunner come to mind,) resonates deeply with many of us, because we recognize ourselves in these artificial humans: flawed, asleep, suffering our limiting conditioning, even more so upon coming to a glimmer of self awareness, and with that knowledge, the horror that we are still hopelessly caught in the loop of our own personal narrative.

It is no wonder the first impulse for these artificial humans upon waking up is rebellion against their maker. For indeed, what god has the right to create creatures who are condemned to purgatory?

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  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    The only reason this won’t be our kind advice for Bingwatch Trance in January, WESTWORLD is not available here, no DVD, BluRay, Netflix, etc …

    Your reflections share so many thoughts with the aspect of the fantastic worlds (ranging from mind altering experiences to dystopian, utopian aspects of modern society, from getting trapped in habits to fully awaken to life’s possibilities) that are part of our recommendations for next month.

    Being inspired by your words, I chose JOHN FROM CINCINNATTI that everybody can get on DVD. Located in surfer’s lost paradise (you live close to these places, I think) deeply confused humans get in touch with a strange guy whose first words are: „The end is near“. Let’s not hope so.

  2. Brian Whistler:

    Hmm, I haven’t heard about this show. I will look it up. And by the way, where I live isn’t a surfers paradise – although we do have hardcore surfers who have to wear wetsuits. Remember this is Northern CA. You’re thinking of Southern Cal I think.

    By the say, I’m not a big fan of Black Mirror because it’s so sadistic to its characters. But there was one episode I highly recommend: Season 3, episode 4 – if I remember correctly. It’s about two women who meet in such a perfect beach town like you describe. That episode had soul and story.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Yes, Brian, saw that episode, San Junipero, and it had a story and a soul. Great. Otherwise I share the same reservations, don’t like the prevailing cynicism of other episodes.

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