Westworld season one was a great mix of science fiction and drama and action and it was done in a way that should help people think through many tech ethics questions, like how do we want to treat our robots? Does treating robots with violence change our nature? Can robots become sentient? HBO has a formula for their series and that formula meant the series had to have a lot more violence and sex than needed to tell the story. But it did queue up many good questions for techies building our future.
Westworld season two premieres 22 April 2018. The trailer indicates we are in for plenty more violence but also drama as multiple groups of humans and robots compete.
For those of us really tracking the fast paced changes in Artificial Intelligence there is little fear that modern AI is going to evolve into sentience any time soon. Expect lots of great progress, but that progress will be in continued work in machine learning, deep learning, pattern recognition and other smart applications of math over large quantities of data.
So, why watch Westworld? Watch it so you will be able to think through ethics. If we could build a theme park where people could pay to be violent to things that look like people, should we do that? Would that be good for society? I’m for making that illegal now by the way. I think we should treat anything that looks like a human well. I would not want anyone to punch a store manikin just for fun.
So, if we can build incredibly capable, highly functional and intelligent robots, even if they are not sentient, should we use them for sex and violence? Or should we use them for other higher callings, like exploring the depths of the oceans and the distant stars or for helping the aged and sick, or producing food, or in so many other more appropriate ways.
Regarding AI, if AI could speak to us, I think it would say what Dolores said at the end of the season two trailer: “Why on earth would you ever be frightened of me?”
But, my recommendation, watch the series. Then lets chat about the future we want for ourselves.