A Host of Questions: Artificial Agency in Westworld

Maria Torres-Quevedo | 20th February 2016.

Trigger Warning: Rape, Violence.

Westworld (2016) depicts a sci-fi not-too-distant future in which humans have mastered the art of artificial intelligence, and have used this to create a Western-style theme park in which real humans (almost exclusively white men) from the real world can live out their fantasies consequence-free with “non-human” robots.

The park ostensibly serves to allow its human patrons to “find themselves,” revealing their real desires in an environment designed to cater specifically to them. More interesting to me, however, is the self-discovery exemplified by the two female robots (hosts) around which much of the narrative centres.

Read Article →

Marvel’s America: Living in an Age of Oversimplification

Dylan Taylor | 6 February 2017

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans have “a lively faith in the perfectibility of man…They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement”. Such descriptions help explain our common stereotype as pragmatic idealists with a penchant for exaggerated emotions and an uncomfortable awkwardness in the face of negative, or even ambivalent, sentiments. Studies [1] have implied what many introverts could readily describe: America is a land where being quiet or reflective can induce strange looks or even pity. Being slow-to-judge—a trait so often honored by moral philosophers throughout history—is, to that subset of Americans which subscribes to a masculine, red-blooded vision of our tenets, seen instead as a sign of weakness and naiveté. This diluting of issues into binaries—weak or strong, moral or immoral, right or wrong—is a cultural tendency that has seemed to reach its apotheosis in the theatrical build-up to the new presidency and its traumatic fallout.

Read Article →