HBO’s show “Westworld” is loosely based on a 1973 sci-fi film, and it follows a winding story of an adult theme park populated by humanoid cowboy robots, run by a shadowy corporation, and is full of big questions about artificial intelligence that is starting to become self-aware.
The first season of the show has drawn to a close, but since a lot of people might be signing up for HBO streaming services with their new devices this week, we called up the co-creators of “Westworld,” Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, to talk about the show. Both creators have been thinking a lot about AI, not just in “Westworld,” but in the real world we’re all living in right now.
“I think as a writer you’re often looking for or trying to understand the moment you’re in on a sort of broader perspective,” Nolan said. “For me in particular, the question of AI is something that has become increasingly urgent as we feel it start to seep into our lives.”
Nolan said that instead of a big singularity moment, AI is having an impact via voice assistants like Siri, and algorithmic challenges like the popularity of fake news on Facebook. Nolan and Joy talked to Marketplace Tech about everything from the player piano that became its own character in the show, to the technical challenges of filming sci-fi that has emotional impact. Also, whether artificial intelligence should have rights.
“I think it depends on where artificial intelligence is,” Joy said. “The kind of cautionary tale of ‘Westworld’ is you can’t define humanity and life by just exactly what we are. Born of a womb, our kind of womb, and alive. You have to consider behaviors and feelings and different methods of cognition. I think we’re still a long way from that. But what I do think is an imperative in the short term is setting early boundaries for the development of artificial intelligence so that should it have a kind of exponential growth down the road, we’re prepared for it.”
But what about the really deep questions, like whether the show’s robots, or “hosts,” eat and defecate? Listen to the full interview above to get the answers.
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