Westworld asks a lot of troubling questions. It asks us to consider the horrors of what we do when there’s no consequences. It asks us to consider our actions when the only people of authority are those who have sold the experience as “do whatever you want.”
Stab a man who annoys you, no problem. Drink as much as you want, fine. Kill who you want, violate who you want, the list goes on.
But the guests who do these things to the “hosts” aren’t at the heart of Westworld. At least, not yet.
And that’s for the better because almost every guest in Westworld is completely capable of every conceivable crime against humanity. Worse, they don’t even realize it.
Hear me out. On last Sunday’s episode Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the oldest and longest serving member of the Westworld team, that they had beaten the Turing Test and second, that “the hosts are not real.”
But if the “hosts” can pass the Turing Test (a test where a successful result means that a human could not discern whether it was interacting with a human or a machine) then for all intents and purposes, they are real.
At the very least they’re real enough. If the hosts are convincing enough to be indistinguishable from humans, how do the guests know that they aren’t committing real atrocities? Easy, they don’t, and functionally, they are. When the Man in Black performs a wild west craniotomy to discover a map, he’s really performing a craniectomy. Just because the person he does it to isn’t “alive” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.
When Logan (Ben Barnes) stabs a guest through the hand he really stabs him. He’s reasonably certain that the man he’s about to stab is a host, but how can he be sure if the entire premise of Westworld is that it’s immersive and the line is thin and blurry.
Instead of Skyrim or Red Dead Redemption, what you have is a version of Hostel. Patrons come and pay for a transgressive experience. The difference between Hostel and Westworld is that in Hostel they’re paying specifically to murder. But in Westworld they’re paying for the benefit of the doubt. They want to be reasonably convinced that they’re not committing violent and horrific acts on “real people” despite a lack of evidence.
What we’ve yet to see is the consequences of a guest attempting something, anything, with another guest. Westworld staff continuously state that guests and hosts are only able to kill the people they’re meant to kill. That means that hosts can only kill other hosts and guests can only kill hosts.
What happens if a guest wants to live like Christopher Livingston did, as an Elder Scrolls NPC? What happens if they want to see how deeply they can immerse themselves in Westworld before another guest finds them out? In other words, what if a guest wants to conduct an anti-Turing Test, a test where they must convince everyone around them they’re a host?
We’ll have to wait to find out. For now, we’ll just have to wonder knowing full well that every single guest we’ve seen so far is completely willing to kill someone who just might be a human.