Westworld – A New Frontier for AI. If you haven’t yet tuned into HBO’s Westworld, it’s an exceedingly addictive, provocative look at the future of artificial intelligence and morality in the same instance. It’s based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie and is set sometime in the undisclosed future, where a couple of pioneering scientist types conjure a Wild, Wild West monolithic theme park of sorts populated by lifelike, artificially intelligent robots called “hosts.” Human “guests” pay oodles of money to “live to the limits” and indulge in fantasy experiences, usually to the detriment of their robot hosts. But that’s ok because they’re just robots – right?
In the beginning, we hear a host quote a line out of Shakespeare, “These violent delights have violent ends.” That utterance seems to not only have viral connotations but foreshadows the very nature of how we interact and ultimately treat the world around us. What are our moral obligations as we create artificial intelligence that we interact with? The show ultimately deals with the theme of consciousness and what exactly that means to us humans, as we dabble in the world of crafting artificial intelligence.
And Westworld mirrors some of the things that we currently are grappling with, albeit it in a much smaller way. Lisa Joy, co-creator, and executive producer says, “we’re already living in a world of artificial intelligence — it’s just you’re not seeing a robot, you’re seeing a smartphone. You think ‘oh this is a small leap, a small advance,’ but if you look at everything in aggregate, we are moving towards a place where we’ve uploaded our lives and our thoughts. There’s a cost to that.”
Jonathan Nolan the other co-creator and executive producer has similar concerns about the swift progression of AI technology. “People have started to think of this only as a question of science fiction, and the reality is these things are happening very quickly. I believe we’re going to start grappling with some of these questions far earlier than we anticipated.”
Westworld is a genuinely fascinating and transporting look at how we deal with things that are organic, synthetic, or virtual and brings up a multitude of ethical quandaries we will have to deal with as AI becomes part of our brave new world. And it’s not that far off our radar – as I wrote about in a previous Mashup – with the AI in autonomous automobiles, who will make the ethical decisions about who lives and who dies in any given driving scenario… the advanced AI or us humans?
For a deeper and yes spoiler dive into the show and how it marries up to our foray into AI, check out the links below…
This series has clearly just begun when it comes to confronting our current understandings of AI technology and our moral obligations surrounding it.
So how realistic is all of this, and when should we start preparing for the robocalypse?
Michael Chase, CMO
St. Joseph Communications
#MondayMorningMashup > http://stjoseph.com/monday-morning-mashup-nov-14th/