HBO’s Westworld is a television series that really makes you think about life, reality, and the moral ethics of science. Set in the futuristic world where artificial intelligence (AI) is real and, for a fee, humans can live among it in themed parks are various as the Wild West of Westworld, to the Japanese culture of Shogun World.
Within these worlds, humans can do as they please with the AI hosts. From wild sexual debauchery, through to any sort of murder and slaughter imaginable, guests can live out their fantasies within a world where there are no consequences as a result of their actions. For the hosts in Westworld, while they are programmed to react accordingly during the situations inflicted on them by humans, at the end of the day, they are stitched up or put back together, and their memories are wiped so they are fresh, clean, and untainted for the next day.
Of course, as with all cautionary tales, Season 2 of Westworld has slid down a slippery slope where the hosts appear to be self-aware and the humans are suffering as a direct result of the years of abuse inflicted on them.
While Westworld may open up some really interesting dialogue in regard to how far science should go in the pursuit of artificial intelligence, actual scientists were recently given the chance by CNet to voice their opinion on the show and how scientific it really is.
After all, how close are we to living in a world where robots like the hosts in Westworld could become a reality?
“Compelling story, completely ungrounded tech,” said Michael L. Littman, professor of computer science at Brown University after viewing the first episode of Season 1.
Professor Geoff Goodhill from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland watched Season 1 of Westworld and had this to say.
“Fun, but a huge disconnect between the hardware/software portrayed and what will actually be possible in the foreseeable future.”
Victor S. Adamchik, a professor of engineering practice at the University of Southern California, reveals that to have robots that are convincing enough to pass off as humans, science is possibly thousands of years away.
“We are about to have robots in our day to day life, but to have organic robots will take time. We need perhaps hundreds of years to understand a single cell, and thousands of years to understand our brain,” he explained. “The show is unrealistic.”
While many experts think that the science is way off in regard to realistic AI robots, as Leila Bridgeman, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University, explains, it adds an exciting new flavor to current seminars in relation to the topic.
“Thinking about how ongoing research could contribute to the robots in Westworld often makes seminars more fun!” she revealed. “For instance, last semester we had a departmental seminar speaker discuss her research into bio-inspired robots, which I think would be crucial to building the robots of Westworld.”
So, it seems that while the scientists tended to enjoy watching Westworld for its entertainment value, they mostly came to the same conclusion: the world of science has a long way to go in relation to creating AI robots as deceptively human as the hosts seen in the show.
Season 2 of Westworld returns with Episode 7 on Sunday, June 3, at 9 p.m. ET. According to Elle, this episode will be titled “Les Ecorches.”