Westworld: A Reflection on What it Means to Be Human


Having not seen the original 1973 version of Westworld, I wasn’t aware of the journey I would partake in when delving into the latest HBO series of the same title. It was just another series that had been suggested multiple times by several people before I finally sat myself down to watch it, and I didn’t realize that doing so was going to lead to a journey full of unanswered questions and self-reflection.

I can see now the reason why so many people have recommended this series, as it is a psychological rollercoaster that will make the viewer question their own existence. Set in a western themed amusement park in a futuristic world where artificial intelligence (A.I.) has gotten so realistic that it’s hard to decipher what is real and what is man’s creation, Westworld brought about the idea of what it means to be human. Are we human because we are born human or are we human because we think we are? It broke the barriers of realism and perception to further make us question not only the world in which the series is set, but also the viewer’s own world, causing one to think that, “maybe nothing is what it seems.”

The series brings to mind certain elements of various other film and television programs; It holds themes similar to the 1999 film Bicentennial Man, which starred Robin Williams as an android who sets out to become fully human in the physical sense. It’s also reminicent of the 2005 animated feature Robots, in which the world was completely run by robots with no signs of human life. Where did the humans go? How did the first robot of the film’s world come to be? These were all things that made me wonder, despite being only 12 at the time.

In a way, Westworld is the answer to these questions, all the while spurring more inquiries. As a metaphorical comparison to life—while it did answer some questions I had since the first episode of the season—it still brought about more as new challenges were added to the story, and new facts were discovered. In a way, it felt like growing up all over again, due to the series giving you insight into the minds of the A.I. “humans” as they discover that their world isn’t what it appears to be, all the while beginning to retain memory and work with the new information they discover. When it closed one door, another opened, making you question existence all over again; an allegory towards how we constantly learn, adapt and deal with the world around us.

It’s interesting to see put down into a television series, this concept of self-discovery. We learn things about ourselves all the time, and through this learning, we determine what choices we make with the information we are given. What is reality? Is it determined by what is naturally made, or, in the case of something being created, is it the experience of the subject that is real? We may think something as real and un-tangible, but something may happen that makes us question our own existence.

If you’re in for the psychological experience of a lifetime, one that makes you question even your own existence, then Westworld is something  worth your while; I for sure will be watching with anticipation to see where the concept leads next.

(Featured Image: Westworld, HBO)

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