The creation of artificial life and artificial intelligence is becoming close to technological reality, and it is stories like Westworld that remind us of the dangers of taking on the role of Creator when we lack the moral core to live up to that role.
However, in reality, we do not need to create artificial beings to abuse. The abuse of those deemed lesser beings or sub-humans is a common symptom of decadent or primitive societies. Whether it is slavery and human trafficking, blood sports, proxy wars, racism and class or caste systems, we are prone to work out our worst human instincts through abuse of the ‘other’ who we can make subhuman to maintain our illusion of being good and moral.
CS Lewis in his seminal work The Abolition of Man pointed out that “the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means... the power of some men to make other men what THEY please.” As we become more technologically advanced, this power to shape other parts of humanity to our will grows rather than lessens.
Westworld is about our moral responsibility to our fellow man, about the myth that our actions have no impact or consequence for us regardless of their consequences for others, and that playing God is presuming a role for humanity for which we are singularly ill-equipped. It has a resonance in social justice and bioethics. I look forward to seeing how it explores these themes in the coming weeks.