Category Archives: Reading Responses

Last Day of Class Tomorrow!

Wow, it’s almost our last class! Tomorrow we have our second round of presentations, and have three presenters (Justin, Phoenixx, and Mohammad). We will have a good chunk of time as well to discuss Westworld (finally!), so please do bring in your notes and ideas on the show.

We’ll also have a little end-of-the-semester celebration, and I’ll bring in some treats. Feel free to also bring in something to share with your classmates. Again, if anyone has any food allergies and/or dietary restrictions, please let me know (either comment on this post, or email me if you want to do it privately).

A friendly reminder that your Final Course Reflections are due tomorrow. Read more about them here.

If you haven’t done so already, check out my Wrapping up The Semester post 🙂

 

“Dystopic? Or Myopic?”

analog cover (november-december 2018)In the most recent issue of Analog: Science Fiction and Fact (November/December 2018), the guest editorial discusses the trend towards dystopian visions in recent science fiction. Edward M. Lerner in “Dystopic? Or Myopic?” perhaps sums up his views in one word: “Ugh” (4). He goes on to assert clearly: “The prevalence of dystopian SF, I firmly believe, is a Bad Thing.” (4)

At least two comments due by W 12/5, though, as always, more are welcome! Engage with his claims in this editorial and with your classmates’ ideas, and provide textual evidence in support of your comments. Feel free to also bring in contemporary life (including movies, video games, etc.) to back up your points.

 

What does it mean to be “human” in Westworld?

As part of our reading of Westworld, we are considering how humanity is redefined in the world of this text. We are exploring what it means to be human, in a world where people have their non-biological, “fake,” non-living counterparts (“hosts”).

What does authenticity means in a world where everything, including emotions, memories, reveries, beings, etc. can be simulated, created by people? What defines a “human” or “humanity” in the world of Westworld? What distinguishes the real/genuine/authentic from the fake/simulated/ersatz? What is missing/lost/sacrificed (if anything) in these replicas? Is anything gained?

  • Who/what serves who/what? Who are the masters and who are the slave? Who are the superiors and the inferiors?
  • What are the relationships (colleagues, friendship, sexual, love, etc.) between different types of beings?
  • What is a real “emotion” if it can be simulated or real memories if they can be implanted?
  • What about the setting, the utopian park of the old Wild West, where the rich come to live out their fantasies at the expense of others?
  • What kinds of competing sets of values are at play?
  • What are central conflicts of the first episode?

I am also particularly interested in us tracing how, through their interaction with the “hosts,” people (the “newcomers” or the people who work on creating the hosts or Westworld itself) move from merely embodying values/norms of their society that they have have already internalized, to developing individual, (perhaps rebellious?), free-thinking understanding about the world and their places in it, and the hierarchy of beings (living and otherwise).

Think about these questions in relation to other texts we are read or ideas discussed this semester, as well as real-life advances in technology (such as those presented in this article, “Japanese professor creates uncanny, human-like robots and the exhibit website, Android: What is Human?).

[Logistics]

Make at least two comments (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by the end of class today (Tuesday, 11/20, by 3:45pm). Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by M 11/26.

Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc. &/or discuss central conflicts/values/themes through the use of your evidence/analysis). Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs or in class, you should feel free to draw on that material.The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about important themes/questions raised by this complex novel, and to find/analyze/synthesize various pieces of evidence in support of claim.

The goal in all cases is to provide specific examples from the text (scenes/quotes/citation from the episode) with discussion/analysis and some connection to a larger claim/argument. You must cite currently in MLA format (in-text citation).

People’s Choice Posts #6: ‘Westworld’

It’s that time again! Read through your classmates’ reading response blogs on the first episode of the HBO series, Westworld, and choose your favorite post. You can choose a post for any reason, but you always must clearly articulate your rationale for choosing it (e.g., why did you find it interesting, compelling, likeable, provocative, etc.?). This rationale can refer to content, style, creativity, etc. If, after reading everyone’s posts, you strongly feel that your post is your “favorite,” you can always vote for yourself, but you need to provide a rationale for doing so.

In order to register your vote for this week’s “People’s Choice,” “leave a reply” to this post, and in your comment, provide your chosen post, an excerpt from it + rationale for choosing it. Provide the title and author of the chosen post, along with a link to the post you are citing (please provide the link in the same comment: don’t make a separate one with just the link). Citing is really important (in this case, citing your classmate!), and this is a way of giving credit to other sources and putting yourself in dialogue with them.

Comments/votes are mandatory, should be made no later than M 11/19. The person with the most votes will earn the coveted “People’s Choice” honor for this round of posts! I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose, and why.

People’s Choice Posts #5: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

It’s that time again! Read through your classmates’ reading response blogs on the first episode of the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale, and choose your favorite post. You can choose a post for any reason, but you always must clearly articulate your rationale for choosing it (e.g., why did you find it interesting, compelling, likeable, provocative, etc.?). This rationale can refer to content, style, creativity, etc. If, after reading everyone’s posts, you strongly feel that your post is your “favorite,” you can always vote for yourself, but you need to provide a rationale for doing so.

In order to register your vote for this week’s “People’s Choice,” “leave a reply” to this post, and in your comment, provide your chosen post, an excerpt from it + rationale for choosing it. Provide the title and author of the chosen post, along with a link to the post you are citing (please provide the link in the same comment: don’t make a separate one with just the link). Citing is really important (in this case, citing your classmate!), and this is a way of giving credit to other sources and putting yourself in dialogue with them.

Comments/votes are mandatory, should be made no later than M 11/19. The person with the most votes will earn the coveted “People’s Choice” honor for this round of posts! I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose, and why.

Westworld: New World Order?

At the start of the first episode of Westworld we are thrown in into this altered reality. The episode majorly follows Dolores the main Host which is later known she is the oldest host with in this altered reality. She is being interrogated by the team responsible for hosts actions. At around the (02:00) mark Dolores is asked what does she think of her world which she replies with “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty”

It is Obvious as the episode goes on that Dolores is programmed to have such responses so she could fit into the role the designers, programmers, and everyone involved want her to play. But at the end around the end (1:06:00) Dolores after the series of malfunctions with in the update reacts to the fly that sits on her face (like any other host).But this time she slaps it on her neck killing it. Signifying her deeper awakening a consciousness coming into fruition.

Continuing into “Westworld” Park as everyone outside of the reality calls it. A recent update within the reality has caused malfunctions with in the reality with a set of characters that have interfered with the “guests” (actual humans) enjoyment of the park. Throughout the episode the affected hosts would either breakdown or commit actions outside their programmed roles. And outside the limit set for them to improvise. The host that standed out the most has been Dolores father after finding a buried picture around the cattle hold. Which appeared to be of a young woman possing in Times Square (32:22). Around the (1:02:44) mark it is revealed that some hosts have had previous roles within the reality park. And with this update fragments of those past roles have come back causing some malfunctions.

At the 1:01:26 mark Dolores father sites this Shakespeare passage after literally meeting his makers “A most mechanical and dirty hand. I shall have such revenges on you both. The things I will do, what they are, yet I know not. But they will be the terrors of the earth. You don’t know where you are, do you? You’re in a prison of your own sins.” This quote alone foreshadows what is yet to come to all involved with in this twisted reality.

Which may as well come forth from a dark figure within the reality confirmed as a guest. Early on stated the lengthy relationship he has had with Dolores in this reality. At the 44:42 mark the man in black says to the teller “The others, they just come here to get their rocks off, shoot a couple Indians, There’s a deeper level to this game.” He then continues to skin off his scalp which had a symbol or map under it. Eluding to the fact that there is a deeper level to this game.

Ford the creator states  “We’ve managed to slip evolution’s leash now, haven’t we? We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive and one fine day perhaps we shall even resurrect the dead, call forth Lazarus from his cave. Do you know what that means? That means we are done, that this is as good as we’re going to get.” He gets to the point that androids are the next step of evolution. That humans have reached the end of their journey. These beings (hosts) might be the way mankind continues forward. if it does not it would be a fight for survival between man and machine which had been a recurring theme within our studies.

These moments within the first episode caught my eye and I believe will set up the rest of the season. Which like stated in class can lead endless reasons to why these events might have happened and what will occur after them. This is what makes Science Fiction a whole different reality from other genres because it can allows us to roam around and encounter endless possibilities. I will definitely finish out this series and stay updated with it as well. This show tackles not only scientific possibilities and technological advances it also tackles human possibilities and expansion of our beings.

 

A Recipe For Disaster

Westworld is a science fiction tv series. It takes place in another world, where human technologies have evolved to the point that humans can create a “virtual reality.” Through the use of human-like robots with artificial consciousness, humans are given free reign in this futuristic amusement park, able to play out their wildest dreams and desires. However, this free reign will lead to human downfall.

First and foremost, while watching the first season fist episode of this tv series, I am flabbergasted by the ideas of the two inventors, Bernard Lowe and Robert Ford. There is nothing wrong with creating human-listic robots, given that the proper precautions are taken. Now, I am not talking about the guards and clean-up crews, but real laws and regulations that should be followed by the players. One should know that most humans, not all, are worse than animals if given the opportunity to let loose, for we are creatures of insatiable desires; rape, murder, and violence are all part of what we are. This futuristic park satisfied the conditions, for they are there to gratify desires of humans who pay to visit their world (00:10:52). Without laws, morals, and consequences to keep humans intact, it is only obvious that we would indulge in desires, and turn to something unrecognizable.

I agree with Ashley Stubbs’s, head of Westworld security, words to Bernard, “You don’t have kids at home, do you, Bernard? If you did, you’d know that they all rebel eventually” (00:18:43). These robots are like a “growing boy,” they absorb the actions and knowledge around them, and are shaped by them (39:32). If we are to pair up self-conscious robots and the dark side of humans, it is a recipe for disaster. Just like how abused slaves under the hands of a tyrannic master will rebel, these self-aware robots are the same. These “violent delights have violent ends” (1:04:00).

While watching this episode, I have never liked Bernard or Ford, to me, they seem too obsessed with upgrading these robots to human standards. Do they even know what they are doing? They may think that they are creating perfection robots, but by giving them subconsciousness and intelligence, they have gone beyond the creation of a tool, instead of an lifeless object for the sake of serving humans, they are creating a whole new species. As with every species, these machines would have their own will, desires, and freedom. As stated before, a “violent end” is only a matter of time when these new species’s lives cross paths with the humans.

Perhaps it is human egoism that truly sets their end. Despite the repeated faults coming up with the robots throughout the episode, they believe that everything is under their control, for the robots are programmed by them. These pride and self-confident creates a world of free indulgence that blinds them to the ever evolving robots.

Westworld: A Land of Possibilites and Shakespeare Lines

Westworld is an HBO television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. The first season was released in 2016. This television series is based on the film Westworld that was created in 1973 by Michael Crichton. The first episode of Westworld is titled “The Original”. At (00:00:09), is the introduction of the episode. Through this clip, you can see the various creations of Westworld. It so creative and fascinating to observe. At the beginning of the episode, we are introduced to Dolores Abernathy. She is one of the oldest ‘hosts’ in the world of Westworld. Hosts are very lifelike. They were made by faculty members of Westworld. So basically, in Westworld, people/customers pay a hefty amount of money to visit the park.  It is like a giant amusement park where people can experience various storylines/fantasies that they could not experience in the real world. At (00:03:36), one customer is talking about his previous visits to the park.

Dolores is asked the question, what do you think of the guests? At (00:04:10), “The newcomers are just looking for the same thing we are, a place to be free, to stake out our dreams. A place with unlimited possibilities”.  She describes the guests as wanderers who seek out their dreams just like them. At (00:12:00), the mysterious man that is speaking says, “What if I told you that you can’t hurt the newcomers? And that they can do anything they want to you?” Also in this scene, the man in black is seen to be taking bullets to the chest but it does not affect him. So this makes him a customer. But once, the man in black shoots Teddy back, he bleeds out and dies. So Teddy is actually a host like Dolores.

These ‘hosts’ are placed there to make Westworld seem more real. At (00:14:22), all the hosts are in a routine or on a loop. As soon as they die, their lives seem to start over. For example, Dolores wakes up in her bed and Teddy wakes up on the train. At (00:14:53-00:15:12), you can see that Westworld is much larger than it seems. Westworld reminds of a virtual reality game. And in this game, you could do anything possible. At (00:15:12), the various creatures of Westworld are shown. They appear to be so real. I guess that is why it cost so much money to attend the park.

At (00:32:27), Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy, discovers a modern picture of a woman in Times Square. Both characters have a different reaction towards the photo. Dolores simply ignores it while her father stares at it deeply almost like he is in a trance. Throughout the episode, we see some of the hosts have malfunctioned. At (00:45:25), Peter Abernathy has a malfunction. The reason for his malfunction could be the modern photo he found. He says to Dolores, “I had a question. A question you’re not supposed to ask. Which gave me an answer you’re not supposed to know. Would you like to know the question?” In this scene, his speech is all over the place. He stutters and repeats himself. Dolores had also found him outside. So he did not loop back but stayed in the same spot where she left him. The ‘hosts’ are supposed to stay in the loop, stick to their scripts and have no major improvisations.

Towards the end of the episode, there a lot of Shakespear references. One of the lines I found to be interesting is what Peter Abernathy says to Robert Ford. He says, “When we are born, we cry we are… come to this great stage of fools” (00:58:33). I think that Peter understands that he is just a creation and not a real person. The stage he is referring to is Westworld. He is just a fool being used to entertain the guests. Also at (01:00:57), Peter has a change of tone. He is serious and has an evil look in his eye. He says to Robert Ford, “By most mechanical and dirty hand, I shall have such revenge on you… both. The things I will do. What they are, yet I know not, but they will be the terrors of the Earth. You don’t know where you are, do you? You’re in a prison of your own sins”. I was like in a trance when he said this. It is almost like he has a mind of his own. But Ford claims that is the previous builds coming back to haunt them. It is creepy though that these ‘hosts’ have the ability to access their previous builds.

In this episode of Westworld, there are many acts of rebllion. With the invention of artifical intelligence, it almost as these ‘hosts’ have a mind of their own. Soon, the ‘hosts’ will realize what they are and they will find their way out. It is only the beginning.

Two different worlds

Westworld is a show on HBO that brings to light a world where artificial intelligence has been capable of looking and acting human. With this people have created an amusement park known as Westworld  where people with the monetary means are capable of living out there western lifestyle fantasy. It is clear from the shows beginning that there is already a lot of questioning about what makes something human which brings in this idea that if the A.I are incapable of even hurting a living fly then they are still A.I. For the most part this show centers around the idea that humanity centers around violence and that even though Westworld caters to the whole family people mainly go there to live out there most deprived fantasies like rape and murder. 

What struck me most about the show overall was the way humanity was depicted. In the show people at first go because of curiosity but after that there seems to be this pattern that the guest only come back to wreck havoc that otherwise would be illegal in the real world. In the first episode in 54:47 one of the parks guests kills one of the A.I because in his narrative his an outlaw that needs to be brought to justice. What’s interesting about this scene is the reaction of the guest himself because rather then being in shock his proud and treats it as a joke. “Look at that I shot him through the neck and his pal here too, look at her wriggle, you go get a photographer” Even though all the guests are aware that the park workers aren’t real people its still surprising how unaffected they are to the fact that something that looks so real and acts like a person doesn’t  make them even flinch but rather gives them joy. Which also comes to question what happens when the people in the park can no longer recognize who truly is a guest and who’s an A.I. At this point I also wonder how they can even tell now to begin with. IN in another scene in 15:48 two women are taking about Teddy and how lifelike he seems even though his supposed to be an A.I that more closely acts to a guest but even then they can tell he isn’t real. It isn’t clear how people and A.I are distinguished but it is clear that people in enjoy that there lifelike because it feeds into there  fantasy.

Throughout the show there is also a constant connection that violence equals humanity and that to keep the A.I in the park inhuman they make them incapable of hurting any living thing. More than this they make them incapable of forming any outside connections and erase there memory everyday so that they relive everyday without question. in 46:34 Dolores one of the parks A.I sees that her father has done something out of character which is to stay up all night and contemplate his reality after finding a photo of someone in the outside world which is foreign to them.This effectively breaking him down and forces him to remember everything that has happened to them. The fact that these characters do seem to feel fear and love only brings to light that the only thing keeping them inhuman is there inability to remember what happens to them. In 47:25 Dolores dad seems to remember everything and implores his daughter to run showing that they’re capable of free thought and emotion, that even they’re programmed a certain way they are still  capable of overriding that program. This show really helps to question humanities motivations and how sinister they can be when given the freedom.

What Separates Us From Machines?

Westworld is an interesting series that focuses on two different beings, “Hosts” which appear to be automatons, and “Guests”, which are humans.  It was a little confusing why they were called that but some dialogue mentions a “park” indicating this is a theme park where the automatons are design to serve or cater to the humans that attend it.  In this western themed park, it seems to be another world where humans are free to do anything they choose, no matter how questionable their actions may be.

In the beginning of the episode, a host named Dolores hints her world is the kind of place where it allows a lot of freedom by saying, “The newcomers are just looking for the same thing we are.  A place to be free to stake out our dreams, a place with unlimited possibilities.” (00:04:05). This is eventually seen to be true as some of these “newcomers” get away with things like killing other people and laughing over it as though it’s nothing (00:53:24).  The same freedom doesn’t apply to the hosts however, as they’re supposed to “stay within their loops” (00:40:05). They aren’t allowed to experience a different way of life unless a guest chooses it for them (00:39:42) and they aren’t able to kill the guests either (00:12:23) leaving them no choice but to experience whatever someone else wants from them.

Technology is just seen as a tool to serve humans which makes it even more likely the guests will treat them improperly.  When the Sheriff malfunctions, the guests say “something is wrong with it.” indicating that some don’t even view the Sheriff as anything but a machine (00:27:04) and some old guy even refers to them as “livestock” (00:45:02).  They return to town and proceed to shoot up the wanted man’s gang and say things like “Look at that! I just shot him through the neck! And his pal here, too. Yo, go get that photographer. I want to get a picture of this.” (00:54:40).  These signs show that humanity doesn’t care for the hosts no matter how lifelike they look or act. It’s honestly disturbing that people would be willing to kill automatons that mimic our behaviors and then laugh over it like it’s nothing.  The hosts can hardly be told apart from the guests so these actions technically are no different from killing a stranger.

With the hosts being treated unfairly, it seems like this theme park isn’t going to last very long.  Some of the park managers foreshadows this by saying “You don’t have kids at home, do you Bernard? If you did, you’d know that they all rebel eventually.” (00:18:45).  This is nearly proven later when Mr. Abernathy threatens the inventor of hosts by saying “I shall have such revenges on you both.” (1:02:03) indicating that it’s possible for the hosts to break free of their programming.  Generally, the hosts are not designed to react to anomaly’s or unusual things like when the upper level of the bar collapses and the people inside don’t even glance at it (00:50:30). However, Dolores appears to be showing this behavior too, as one of the researchers lines claim they “literally couldn’t hurt a fly.” (00:27:31) only for Dolores to slap one on her neck at the end, revealing her growing awareness of the world (1:06:54).

From this episode, we can see that Westworld is a place where humans can do whatever they want.  We see guests that kill automatons that look like humans, laugh about it, and snap pictures of it.  But if we keep in mind what defines humanity and machines, this world is pretty messed up. Humans are typically regarded as beings known for their empathy and compassion, yet there’s barely any to be seen here.  Machines are commonly seen as cold and calculating, but in Westworld, they’re built to be lifelike and live out the same everyday lives that can be altered in disastrous ways depending on how the guests want them to.  Pertaining to the series, the line that separates us is so blurred, the hosts might as well be considered more human than us.