Westworld is not smart

The premise of the show is that there is a themepark, "westworld", in America in the near future. It’s a simulation of the imagined American wild west. Rich tourists go there. They either play white hats, good guys, or black hats, bad guys. The bad guys can rape and kill and torture the inhabitants of the park. How is this legal? The natives aren’t human actors, they’re robots who look human and, after the themepark resets, loose their memories of the past cycles events. The show does a lot of oooh-aaah about wheather the robots are alive and wheather torturing them is wrong etc..

Why is the show stupid? Because

  • It ignore moral uncertainty. The robots often look, feel and act like real people. As the narrative develops, they increasingly exhibit autonomous behaviours, self-awareness and other traits we associate with people. Even if we can’t be sure they they qualify as moral agents, it still seems to be highly likely or at least possible. Hence killing/torturing maiming them is wrong. There’s an (risk of them being people)% chance that you’re doing horrific things to actual people. A good comparison here is you see a person in a coma. You can choose to shoot them, You are 97% certain they’re braindead. Obviously you shouldn’t shoot them. The 3% risk that you run of commiting murder is too high.
  • It treats moral personhood as binary. The presumption in the show is that if the robots aren’t full people, it’s okay to torture/kill/rape/murder them. Why do they have to be 100% equivalent to humans for it to be bad to torture them? Animals are not people. We still don’t allow their torture. The robots certainly seem more aware and intelligent than animals, The point is there are levels of personhood in between "Rock" and "Sentient human being", those levels still have certain rights/preferences we care about and there’s no way in hell the robots appear to have less personhood than a pig or cow.
  • The world is really, really dumb. There exist super smart robots who have a great deal of decision making power, are autonomous, can be programmed to do many things (including shoot?). All they’re used for is theme parks. Bullshit. This kind of tech would change the face of the world in a decade. All manual or low-creativity jobs could be automated. Wars could be fought mostly without human intervention. Authoritarian regimes would have even less need of a happy populace, knowing their soldiers are always loyal and willing regardless of what the drones think. Hell, it’s literally a singularity level event which could entirely reshape/destroy human society. And that’s assuming the robots can just follow basic scripts and don’t have agency. If they do and if their intelligence can be adjusted to be super human, as the shows says it can, ooooohhhh boy.

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