Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Westworld Wednesday: Boomtown

Westworld is a show which, at its heart, asks all the big questions, examines our humanity through the lens of an artificial eye, gazing unflinchingly at who and what we are, and what our reality is.

The quote-unquote Wild West is a great medium for this - on its surface, it's what often gets referred to as a "simpler time", conjuring up images of homesteads such as the Abernathy families and righteous lawmen who fought to introduce order to such a wild frontier.

Of course, that's not exactly true, is it? It's what can be charitably termed revisionist history to understand it that way. The wild lack of order in the west was introduced by those who claimed to conquer it, and the means employed were far from those of righteous individuals.
At home on the range*
*Multi-billion dollar murder park

The guests of Westworld are much they same - free of restraints, they visit horrors upon the hosts without regard to who or what their vehicle may actually be. It's hardly a new phenomenon, of course - the Roman Colosseum was hardly the picture of grace and kindness, and many of that empire's achievements were built on the backs of conquered slaves.

Season 2 begins to give us a glimpse of another world. Not a better one, or some ideal, but it just may turn out to be some version of that. It shows us the real world, or out of respect to our future robot overlords, our world. We never saw it in the first season, but it's alluded to. The Man in Black tells us that all the problems of the world have been solved - granted, he runs in pretty elite circles, so he may be biased. But Ford reminisces that they can cure any disease and keep even the weakest alive, so some form of utopia is visited upon that society.

What we see of the human world is opulence - as one would expect from the focus being on the moneyed individuals who bankroll the park back from the brink of oblivion. But it presents an interesting problem - how many people can actually afford a $40,000-per-day vacation? Not I, and I'm assuming, you can't either (but if you can, I would like to talk to you about my newly-vacant position of BFF). Some estimates say there are about 50 million millionaires in the world here in good ol' 2018, which sounds like a lot, but isn't even 1% of the world population.
Delores IRL

So what is the Westworld world - the human one - really like? It's obviously capitalistic, since Logan and his father are singularly (well, not exactly singularly in Logan's case) concerned with money. William, likewise, is focused on money - or, rather, uses it to appeal to James after his soul-searching journey into Westworld. Regardless, he becomes a titan in the world, only to spend as many of his days of possible in the park. It is within the park that he explains to Teddy and Ford that humankind's problems are solved. But a capitalist society has no interest in solving problems, save from profiting off them.

People like Delos - Delos the family, Delos the corporation - are only interested in profit. Season 2 dives deep into this - and, I imagine, will dive even deeper into as the season goes on - that there is a much more nefarious purpose behind it, where people drop the yearly salaries of people in a day to murder and/or rape robots. So Delos plays a larger game, profiting from the ultra-elite, while those, in turn, profit from others.

But who is it they profit from? Here in our non-robot controlled present, the wealth gap is increasing rapidly, and will likely continue to do so, barring total economic collapse. That seems as likely as anything else (our very own Dystopian Visions series is highly recommended reading on this). So what has happened that has lead to eradication of sickness, and the seemingly vast amounts of wealth?

Where are the trod upon, those who the capitalists capitalize on? Maybe we will never see them in the show proper, but I would be very interested to see what Delores and her ilk thought of them.


Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories (which should be on YOUR summer reading list). You can read his other ramblings and musings on a variety of topics (mostly writing) on his blog. When not holed up in his office tweeting obnoxiously writing, he can be found watching or playing sports, or in his natural habitat of a bookstore.