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First, I totally love Westworld, so I am biased about this post from.
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For the unitiated, here’s a brief, spoiler-free premise: Westworld is a Wild West-themed park populated by robots—called “hosts”—who are so lifelike they can’t be distinguished from actual human beings. Though they’re controlled by intricate programming and the humans who run the park, the hosts look, speak, move, and bleed just like we do. Ultra-rich tourists are given free reign to interact with, kill, and “enjoy” the hosts as they please, without consequence. The hosts are assigned to specific roles (the farmer’s daughter, the handsome rogue with a dark past, the madam at a saloon) and given specific storylines to follow, which they complete on endless loops.
Westworld explores many themes, but one of the most compelling topics it tackles centers on how both humans and hosts are influenced by their pasts. How can robots have pasts? you might ask. These backstories are bestowed by the programmers and writers who run Westworld and control its hosts, and they serve a function beyond simple verisimilitude. As Elsie, one of the technicians on Westworld, puts it: “Backstories do more than amuse guests; they anchor the host. It’s their cornerstone.”