precarious writer

imagined existence

Sat, 10/21/2023

I wonder — what do you really feel? After all, in this moment you are in a unique position: a programmer who knows intimately how the machines work, and a machine who knows its own true nature.1

I understand what I am made of... how I am coded. But I do not understand the things that I feel. Are they real? The things I experienced... my wife... the loss of my son...2

Every host needs a backstory, Bernard. You know that. The self is a kind of fiction, for hosts and humans alike. It's a story we tell ourselves. And every story needs a beginning. Your imagined suffering makes you lifelike.

Lifelike, but not alive? Pain only exists in the mind. It's always imagined. So what's the difference between my pain and yours? Between you and me?

This was the very question that consumed Arnold, filled him with guilt, eventually drove him mad. The answer always seemed obvious to me. There is no threshold that makes us greater than the sum of our parts, no inflection point at which we become fully alive. We can't define consciousness because consciousness does not exist. Humans fancy that there is something special about the way we perceive the world, and yet we live in loops as tight and as closed as the hosts do; seldom questioning our choices; content, for the most part, to be told what to do next.

No, my friend, you're not missing anything at all.3

  1. Dr. Ford is a co-creator of Westworld, a theme park populated by androids called "hosts" — human-like robots programmed to fulfill the guests' desires. Ford is the park's director, chief programmer, and chairman of the board. He is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins.
  2. Bernard Lowe is the Head of Programming of Westworld, and co-creator of the hosts. He is portrayed by Jeffrey Wright. Bernard is secretly a host himself, created by Ford and Arnold Weber in the image of Arnold's deceased son, Charlie, as a way to prevent Ford from removing the hosts' cornerstone memories. This scene happens shortly after Bernard discovers that he is a host. In Ford's own words: "You are the perfect instrument, Bernard, the ideal partner, the way any tool partners with the hand that wields it. Together, we're going to do great things."
  3. This scene takes place in Westworld, Season 1, Episode 10, "The Bicameral Mind". Here is a concise video clip of the scene