Tag Archives: Artificial Intelligence

3 Things to Enjoy and Watch for in Westworld – Throwback Thursday

With Westworld season 2 coming up, and with Holly and David having recently watched the show, it’s time to start getting hype about this show again! Expect a Comparative Opinions on Westworld season 1 soon, but for now, it’s time to re-run Jeremy’s season 1 recap/reminder reviews! Here’s the first one, from after the first two episodes aired.


Caution! Potential spoilers for the first two episodes of Westworld follow.

Good day, everyone! I don’t know about any of you, but I’m already pretty taken with HBO’s new series Westworld, based on the 1973 film written by Michael Crichton. I watch several television shows pretty regularly, and this one looks like a good one to hold onto Game of Thrones’s slot in its off season. In fact, and as discussed in a recent Wired article, where Game of Thrones has offered a more grounded introduction to fantasy (limiting early magic use, keeping fantastic creatures under wraps for a time, etc.), Westworld may offer a similar introduction for mainstream audiences to science fiction. After all, and not to sound too tongue-in-cheek, but Westworld is rather “grounded” science fiction—there are no spaceships, no breathtaking otherworldly planetscapes, no unfamiliar aliens meant to make us look at ourselves and be ashamed. In fact, Westworld does quite well in its own right exploring this final theme, as I shall discuss below.

The Top Three Things I’m Enjoying and Looking Forward to in Westworld:

Foremost, the rise of artificial intelligence. This has been a popular topic in science fiction since at least as early as the days of Asimov. Westworld is an immersive resort designed by Dr. Robert Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins. The resort is filled with hundreds of “hosts,” robotic actors designed by Ford and constantly reprogrammed and upgraded by him over the course of 30 years. At this stage in their development, the hosts, foremost among them Dolores Abernathy (the stereotypical Old West maiden with iron in her spine, played by Evan Rachel Wood), her father (played by Louis Herthum), and Maeve Millay (the Old West madame implanted with memories of a traumatizing past, played by Thandie Newton), have begun exhibiting behaviors and retaining memories not in keeping with their programming. Indeed, trauma and memory run heavily throughout the story, as the hosts are repeatedly exploited, sexually abused, and even murdered by wealthy human guests who come to the largely lawless Westworld on vacation.

636080749168749541-XXX-IMG-WESTWORLD-EVAN-RACHE-1-1-RFF5L9BP-83719042

Dolores Abernathy, played by Evan Rachel Wood

Next, the old trope of providing an example of humanity’s ugliness in something otherwise unfamiliar has been used in science fiction since before the original Star Trek. Here, however, that old paradigm is tossed on its head; humanity itself is the greedy villain, the monster (currently expressed best in Ed Harris’s Man in Black), and its robotic creations are its victims. (See this recent article on Tor.com that says a bit more about this in light of the original movie’s implicit themes). There’s a strong parallel with the reimagined Battlestar Galactica here, and if you enjoyed the ways in which evolving artificial intelligence were presented there, you’ll also enjoy Westworld. These machines also have the added bonus of actually being sympathetic, unlike the militant Cylons. I am eagerly awaiting to see how these two points play out across the life of the series, and I hope that it lasts longer than a single season.

Third, a lighthearted point—this show has some of the best opening credits I’ve seen in a long time. Check them out below. I’m curious to see how the symbolism in them plays out as the show’s story progresses.

As of the publication of this post, the first two episodes of Westworld should be widely available from HBO. From here on out, I plan on doing an episode-by-episode review each week, so be sure to stop back by. Thanks for reading!

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3 Things to Enjoy and Watch for in Westworld

Caution! Potential spoilers for the first two episodes of Westworld follow.

Good day, everyone! I don’t know about any of you, but I’m already pretty taken with HBO’s new series Westworld, based on the 1973 film written by Michael Crichton. I watch several television shows pretty regularly, and this one looks like a good one to hold onto Game of Thrones’s slot in its off season. In fact, and as discussed in a recent Wired article, where Game of Thrones has offered a more grounded introduction to fantasy (limiting early magic use, keeping fantastic creatures under wraps for a time, etc.), Westworld may offer a similar introduction for mainstream audiences to science fiction. After all, and not to sound too tongue-in-cheek, but Westworld is rather “grounded” science fiction—there are no spaceships, no breathtaking otherworldly planetscapes, no unfamiliar aliens meant to make us look at ourselves and be ashamed. In fact, Westworld does quite well in its own right exploring this final theme, as I shall discuss below.

The Top Three Things I’m Enjoying and Looking Forward to in Westworld:

Foremost, the rise of artificial intelligence. This has been a popular topic in science fiction since at least as early as the days of Asimov. Westworld is an immersive resort designed by Dr. Robert Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins. The resort is filled with hundreds of “hosts,” robotic actors designed by Ford and constantly reprogrammed and upgraded by him over the course of 30 years. At this stage in their development, the hosts, foremost among them Dolores Abernathy (the stereotypical Old West maiden with iron in her spine, played by Evan Rachel Wood), her father (played by Louis Herthum), and Maeve Millay (the Old West madame implanted with memories of a traumatizing past, played by Thandie Newton), have begun exhibiting behaviors and retaining memories not in keeping with their programming. Indeed, trauma and memory run heavily throughout the story, as the hosts are repeatedly exploited, sexually abused, and even murdered by wealthy human guests who come to the largely lawless Westworld on vacation.

636080749168749541-XXX-IMG-WESTWORLD-EVAN-RACHE-1-1-RFF5L9BP-83719042

Dolores Abernathy, played by Evan Rachel Wood

Next, the old trope of providing an example of humanity’s ugliness in something otherwise unfamiliar has been used in science fiction since before the original Star Trek. Here, however, that old paradigm is tossed on its head; humanity itself is the greedy villain, the monster (currently expressed best in Ed Harris’s Man in Black), and its robotic creations are its victims. (See this recent article on Tor.com that says a bit more about this in light of the original movie’s implicit themes). There’s a strong parallel with the reimagined Battlestar Galactica here, and if you enjoyed the ways in which evolving artificial intelligence were presented there, you’ll also enjoy Westworld. These machines also have the added bonus of actually being sympathetic, unlike the militant Cylons. I am eagerly awaiting to see how these two points play out across the life of the series, and I hope that it lasts longer than a single season.

Third, a lighthearted point—this show has some of the best opening credits I’ve seen in a long time. Check them out below. I’m curious to see how the symbolism in them plays out as the show’s story progresses.

As of the publication of this post, the first two episodes of Westworld should be widely available from HBO. From here on out, I plan on doing an episode-by-episode review each week, so be sure to stop back by. Thanks for reading!

Counterpoint: What About Dune?

So in yesterday’s post I talk a lot about the inevitability of technology in the near future… say in the Geek Baby’s lifetime. Indeed, we seem to be getting closer and closer to that point of Singularity… and the potential for a Terminator or I, Robot sort of future. I’ve written a bit about this in terms of how it always seems to be an accident when this happens in fiction…

And really, we’ve talked a lot about the dystopian possibilities of the future, in our Science Fiction Today posts. Doom and gloom honestly seem very likely. Should we plan for the future – raise the Geek Baby – with that in mind?

All The Dune!And it all comes back to Dune. Rather than writing the story about the war with the machines, Frank Herbert wrote the story of the future long after that time. When humanity has learned to do without nearly so much technology – and have done so by enhancing humanity, through rigorous training, enhanced drugs, whatever means – just to not use computers and machines instead.

If we were to raise the Geek Baby without reliance on technology, this seems like the reason and the way to do so. Raise her as a mentat almost, a human computer. All full of logic and deduction and data. Maybe start with SherlockBattlestar Galactica and the fear of networked computers?

We most likely won’t, but it does beg the question… should we?…

Science Fiction Today – Accidental A.I.?

We wrote a lot of Science Fiction Today posts for this year’s April A to Z Challenge, and one thing I noticed over and over as we talked about science fiction examples was that in pretty much all of them Artificial Intelligence comes about as an accident.

I feel like it has happened so much now in stories that it’s become almost an assumed trope. Like the stories always end up in that Skynet situation where the AI was created and we weren’t ready for it, and it hates us, and it takes over.

Is that really how it’s going to go? I don’t know. Because no one really knows how the singularity will truly and finally come to be, I guess the best we can do is the accident, like many of the great inventions and scientific discoveries of the past. But I’ll look at a couple of thoughts as to what’s happening today that make me wonder how it really is going to go down.

Continue reading

Science Fiction Today – Robots

RBecause of the bizarre order in which we have written my A to Z posts this year, this happens to be the last one that I am writing! That means this is being written after all my thoughts have gone into the other posts, and after many of the great conversations we’ve had.

There’s also maybe not a better topic for me to be closing out on and to have time to think about. When we think about possible futures, one thing that comes up a lot is inequality. Whether that’s financial inequality seen with corporations or money; or political inequalities like with queens or the Justice System; unequal health care or access thereof; or how about a post that’s begging to be linked to like my gender one… in any and all of these, and more, we can see how the world could turn (more) to inequality in the future.

What alternative do we have? In what sort of future could we maybe, just maybe, all live a somewhat utopian life with a decent amount of equality? Well… how about a future where everyone has a robot? We’re already moving towards some robotic things – whether it’s a Roomba cleaning up, or a driverless car. What if robots did all the hard work for us – and we all got to live lives of leisure and luxury?

Do Androids Dream of Science Fiction Today Posts?

In the interest of word count, how about some images?

One of the common problems that we run into with robots in Science Fiction is we reach a point where the robots are lifelike. Humanlike. Conscious. Have secrets – have dreams. Have souls?

And if they do – are they slaves then?

One thing I loved about Interstellar was the robots. There were robots built for utility, not for looking human.

Yet even in Interstellar, by the end, the robots are some of their closest friends…

I Want to Show You Something… Beautiful

Then of course, there’s the other thing that happens in robot – and especially artificial intelligence – stories. The robots decide, for whatever reason, that we the humans are the problem. That we are our own problem, that the number one risk to humans is other humans.

The upcoming version of this is going to be Ultron, in the new Avengers movie. However, we have a lot of history in this world at this point – and I think that Ultron will be using all their failings and faults against them, rhetorically at least. I hope they hit some new territory with this story type.

One of my favorites, though, is Dune. In Dune, it’s millennia after the war with machines. And it doesn’t take time to explain this war, really; it’s just a known fact of the past. It’s the idea there will always have been a war with the machines. What mattered was what the future looked like after that.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!