Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Westworld Wednesday: The Geometry of Spirit

Welcome back to Westworld Wednesday, a series of essays/ramblings about the themes & philosophies of Westworld. NOTE: while we deal more with themes here, rather than plot, the emphasis is not on what happened this week; HOWEVER, if you are reading this and wish to avoid spoilers, you should be current on the show.

I've always been a word person, of sorts. Etymology and meaning fascinate me, a theme you've probably noticed in this little series, how words and concepts are used. The other thing I do (and considerably more profitable) is my day job as an engineer. I always liked lines just as much as I liked words. My mom has this bird I drew when I was a little kid, except it looks like it has been drawn by an untalented Escher, all straight lines, sitting on a branch comprised of straight lines, one wing extended as if you had just asked the bird for directions.

All of this is to say the pictures in my head get weird sometimes.

For all the characters in Westworld, perhaps even for us in the real world, you can draw lines out of our lives, a simple progression from point A to point Z, or whatever. How much do people change over their lives, which is to say, does that line veer, zag, curve much? Or can we draw a more or less straight line between our birth and death of who we are?

Consistency in performance such as this can be termed fidelity, a concept introduced back around the time we meet zombie-James Delos. William tests him for fidelity, which has a glorious B definition (which I assume most of you know, but):
the degree to which an electronic device (such as a record player, radio, or television) accurately reproduces its effect (such as sound or picture)
Double entendres will get you everywhere with me, Westworld. There's the obvious connection, that a piece of machinery is meant to reproduce something - in this case, you know, a human being. But there's the other kind of fidelity in play as well - that line people follow, the integral faithfulness to who we are.

We see Ford following his path, ostensibly to give the hosts free will, but on different terms, since he gives and takes it as he sees fit. All of this, good or ill, is pretty faithful to who he is. People can change though - right?

Teddy does, but not of his own volition. He goes from mild and gentle to violent and calculating - interestingly, though, he's still himself. Maybe it's just the looks and mannerisms - his own reveries, the small details that make us up as much as our dominant traits and motivations. Unfortunately, we likely know his ultimate fate. 
Get it? FLOOD! Classic.

Barring some other reveal, that is the end for the ironically-named Teddy Flood, after the Cradle was destroyed, leaving the Hosts with no backups, no second chances. As Ford points out, the Hosts want to be us; we want to be them - nearly immortal, with infinite second chances. 

As humans, we don't have that luxury. Certainly, there are no shortage of beliefs in our own "valley beyond", but insofar as we have confirmation, this is it, our one life, a straight line from our own cradle to whatever lies beyond.

It should be lived with fidelity.


Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories. 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.