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HBO’s Westworld: A Manifestation of the Enlightenment

Updated: Aug 19

Original Movie Poster from the feature file from 1973. Flickr.

The popular sci-fi TV show Westworld is a reflection of our fallen depravity as human beings and a vision of a dystopian world ahead of us.

Its core plot revolves around the struggle between man, nature, and technology, a struggle born out of the ideals of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of the Enlightenment rather than an authentic understanding of human nature and reality.

Over the past two years, HBO’s successful re-adaption of Westworld, a popular sci-fi movie from the 1970s, takes the present technological and cultural transformation happening in our culture today such as big data, big tech, new advancements in biotechnology, engineering, new forms of digital crime, the destruction of the natural world, and extrapolates these cultural phenomenons into a foreseeable future where scientists have managed to imprint man’s capacity to reason into artificial intelligence, linking cellular biology with a circuit board.

The directors of this show, husband and wife duo, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, have adopted principles of entertainment and cinema to blend science, technology, contemporary politics and our experiences of everyday life, with the many shades of ‘humanity’—good, evil, and a mixture of both, to give us entertainment where we are immersed in a world that is similar to the world we live in, but in one which gives us a glimpse of a ‘possible’ world to come with the rise of AI.

The storyline, characters, and the entire genre of this show paints with an ‘enlightenment’ view of human nature, the premise that man is a destructive rational animal. As an occasional viewer, this premise is clear between the ‘power’ struggles of the various employees, shareholders and directors of the theme park of Westworld. Their AI robots of the Delos Corporation, the owners of this AI system, and the various factions interested in using and exploiting this technology.

Agnosticism and Materialism

The characters, plots, and storyline of this show are in a constant state of war between various ‘conscious’ AI robots, their creators, and other vested interests.

The main character of this show, the AI robot, Dolores, serves as a sort of ‘liberator’, sickened by the sins of man and from a tyranny of being exploited as a machine, a tool of sexual exploitation by visitors, to becoming a character seeking to rid the world of the wickedness of evil men and ‘control’.

The show incorporates Silicon Valley’s newfound obsession that man is living in a simulation. A false understanding of reality in which the world we live in exists to test us ["our fidelity" as the writers of this television show call it]. The purpose of this test of fidelity is to come to know or have some vague understanding of reality that is incoherent and incomplete, in order words — Agnosticism.

The show blends together the philosophies of materialism, atheism, agnosticism, and moral relativism with a subjective understanding of reality rooted in science fiction and the cultural baggage from today’s American technocratic culture of business and industry, into a story line that is thrilling to watch for millions of viewers around the world. But depressing to watch to practicing Christians and Catholics who are freed from the hubris of man.

Michelangelo Scene in Westworld, Season 1 Finale: Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) the co-creator of this ‘conscience’ AI technology talks about how people for centuries did not see that the painting of God and Man by Michelangelo was actually a hidden depiction of human mind in the background where God is pictured reaching out to man. In other words, reason makes Man his own God. This interpretation is incorrect, for man’s capacity to reason comes from God. The Christian truth about the ‘Godhead’, where God gave man a brain for him to know reality is different from the understanding of the role of reason rooted in the enlightenment philosophy, where reason exists to advance vested interests.

This show is reflection of our cultural values which animate a diminished understanding of God, science, politics, and culture. All the characters, both human and robot, are a synthesis of the breadth of personality characteristics we find in our culture today, imprinted on the human and machine characters of this television show—a mirror of the altruistic and evil characteristics of our own humanity in various shapes and forms as mentioned earlier.

Science Fiction and Discourse

On the whole, the core underlining philosophy of this show is rooted in principles and philosophies that contradict themselves when examined deeply or by scientists who actually have a vocation to study science. The origins of this TV show belong to the philosophies of the 17th century dictated by the premise that man no longer needs God; but rather, with the use of reason and science, we can make ourselves our own masters of destiny (Dr. Ford) where man can be a master of nature and solve the human condition, through science and industry.

This framework or understanding of reality ignores the fact that man, endowed by reason and freedom, the notion of objective Truth exists so that we can come to know God.

This show takes the cultural baggage we worship in the news and media and fills it in our God-shaped holes with science, technology, pleasure, and violence.

To summarize the underlining principles that form the plot of Westworld: The show depicts a dystopian vision of the future and worships the fallacy of man and machine to give us entertainment that warps our ideas of our relationship with the world and technology. For those who are ignorant, materialism is the only narrow mechanism to understand reality.

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