All You Need To Know About Determinism And The Westworld Season 3 Poster
The poster for Westworld Season 3 is bleak. In typical Westworldian fashion, there is very little optimism that could be taken from the imagery or the message. When we last saw all the main players things weren’t looking so good for the few good guys left. Almost everybody even close to decent was dead, Delores and Charlotte had completed their parallel scorched earth missions, and Delores had a bag full of host brains in her bag. To add further intrigue, the Man in Black looks to be jacked into the system as in past James Delos fashion.
Westworld Season 1 laid the groundwork for real discussions on how humans are inherently terrible and whether it is possible for AI’s to become self-aware and control their own destinies. Season two blew the door right off the philosophy hinges. It’s no longer just about whether AI’s are capable of subverting their “programming” but whether humans are capable of it too. Are we all predesigned to act a certain way and fill a certain role? How much is fate and how much is making your own luck? The poster of Westworld Season 3 ups that existential ante by firmly delving into the deep end of Determinism. What is it and how could it affect Westworld Season 3.
The Westworld Season 3 trailers do the same. It is all leading to the discovery we are all stuck in our own loops. Whether by design, complacency, or circumstance there doesn’t seem to be an escape. If that’s truly the case, Solomon Build 0.06 is running the show and we are all part of the Matrix. Welcome to eventuality and Determinism.
Are humans actually self-aware? What exactly defines consciousness? What does it mean to have a successful life? Philosophers have discussed and debated each question many times. As AI is being developed, the idea of what it means to be human has been stretched to its limits. Taking a step back, however, has led to some of the more easily understood explanations.
All things are made of matter (or anti-matter), and thus atoms. It is then reasonable to argue that each movement or reaction of said atom holds a cause. This brings us to the first understanding of life, more prominently known as Naturalism. Simplifying the field, we can understand Naturalism in a cause and effect scenario where there are zero supernatural causes, nor effects. Given this, many turn to Determinism, which looks at the universe through cause and effect relationships. Similar to a massive Rube Golberg machine, the field of Determinism argues that everything is predetermined by something that exists, either within or somewhere without our current understanding of that thing. As a result, it is difficult to discuss either a highly evolved technological being or ourselves in the context of consciousness or free will. It would simply not exist.
There is however a saving grace. The field of Compatibilism, which holds the view that Determinism and free will are compatible. The view it is possible to believe in both without being logically inconsistent. Contemporary Compatibilists argue that facing disposition, and holding the ability to think and act otherwise (other than the predetermined) grants the agent-free will. This allows us to discuss the actions of the agent in terms of morality; being good or bad; understanding a bit more of what it means to hold such views. It is thus important for an individual who has free will, to be able to both act and contemplate several scenarios. If Dolores views the outside world(if one really exists) as a chessboard she is constantly looking several moves ahead. She knows what she has done is wrong, however, justifies the morality of it by comparing it to the evil of humankind.
Right, so step one complete, we think therefore we are free. Step two is figuring out what exactly makes a human or life, and what makes it meaningful. Art takes on this in many forms some of them very surprising. Namely, the lessons taught in the cartoon show, Bojack Horseman. This animated Netflix series is often very profound and philosophical. Throughout our watching of the show, BoJack makes several disastrous decisions; including but not excluding a massive drug and alcohol bender which kills one of his friends, almost sleeping with his ex’s daughter (who was underage), and causing a depressive relapse of his best friend.
Although the actions sometimes were not intentional, the ramifications affect him eventually and during another bender, BoJack
falls into a pool where he comes close to dying. During the episode “Half Way Down” BoJack goes through an incredible symbolic dream where he visits his deceased friends and family, each with their own personal dramas and retellings of what a good life is.
Surrounded by his dead friends and family, Bo Jack and his tablemates discuss life, death and what it truly means to be a good person. The discussion of altruistic actions causes them to argue whether one can be good without feeling good. Is it selfish to feel good after a good deed? Does it strip away its goodness in feeling so? The discussion never finishes the thought but it warrants some of our own.
The crew then moves on to discuss death and as BoJack is drowning, each member goes out the door symbolizing death. This scene is similar to Maeve saving so many hosts in the Eden World which for her was symbolic of Heaven. The most notable moment of the BoJack Horseman episode is during one character’s poem and their view of suicide; their regrets and tribulations on the view from halfway down.
Regret is a powerful emotion and Dolores might be getting a whopping dose of it soon. She has killed a massive number of people, human, and host alike. She said she has done it to make the world change, but her actions only show revenge and selfishness. Is it possible for her to do anything truly good since she has never known actual goodness? The bigger revelation for her might be that things aren’t any better on the outside. Maybe no one has free will?
If that is true, why then is Maeve capable of what appears to be heroic behavior? Is she the only actual sentient host having experienced true love with her daughter? For that matter, what to make of poor Bernard who has done both good and bad and understands the difference? To that end is Dolores justified in destroying everything? Is she only out for revenge? If that’s the case, as Bernard points out in a season 3 trailer was she designed to always do this? Maybe what she perceives as her freeing herself from the system are only the actions she was always programmed to do by Ford?
Perhaps only rivaling rage is regret. Not being able to see the future, but the ability to always remember the past grants us one of the saddest but most true emotions. Our freewill will or at the very least our believing in it makes us human. BoJack tells one of his friends “ I need you to tell me I am a good person.” Despite not being a human, this horse tells the story of his regrets and because he does not believe it himself, he needs to rely on others to keep him stable just as we turn to those we love for guidance and support.
Like the crushing death of Quentin Coldwater in The Magicians Season 4 finale, Q needs to know did he save his friends out of love or a self-fulfilling prophecy to commit suicide. Our regrets might make us human but its all those around us that allows us to survive. Free will is not free. So it’s time to take a side. Are you team Bernard and Maeve, or team Dolores. I guess it all depends on your programming. Catch up on all our Westworld coverage as we prepare for season 3 premiering March 15th, 2020.