When someone inevitably unplugs us from this waking nightmare that is modern living, to reveal that it has all been some extravagant simulation, it’s going to be nowhere near as sexy as Westworld.
Or the world outside of Westworld anyway. There’s going to be no society where everyone is an elite socialite looking to escape their mundane reality by having it off with a cowboy. No. It’s just going to be one multi-trillionaire pulling all of the strings, whilst the rest of us have involuntarily volunteered ourselves to be a part of the “new” reality. He’ll be sat at his desk, because of course it’ll be a man, endlessly masturbating to all of the digital acts committed by his now-enslaved human race.
I’m currently enjoying the fact that Westworld is back on our screens. The long awaited second season is now three episodes deep and is rapidly expanding on the fictional, digital reality that we thought we knew from season one. Many people see it as the flagship blockbuster series to carry us over until the final season of Game of Thrones, but as an unapologetic fan of existential and dystopian pieces, this is my Thrones.
Westworld has everything, as long as your patient enough to let the narrative breathe. Half of the characters are in the motions of an existential crisis, which makes for chilling viewing, especially for those of us who regularly question the nature of our reality. Or at the very least our position and place in modern society.
The encroaching possibilities of a deeply immersive digital realm, akin to Westworld, are much less glamorous than the HBO series. What we have now is a globalised internet, chiefly dominated by social media and marketing. A world where we’re constantly told by influencers to question the nature of what everyone else is saying and only believe/buy in to the content that they are handing out. Everyone is trying to draw you in to their circle of influence whilst simultaneously branding everything else as “fake”. It might not seem so aggressive from some sources, but anyone who has a target to hit wants you to consume their content above all others.
This is all child’s play, compared to where we could end up.
We’re unfortunately a dying breed, but those of us who check sources and look to long established outlets of journalistic integrity for our daily news, are still able to discern a truth from a lie. We may not know it immediately, but usually within several hours of the event/story first being reported.
I won’t get too much into the bone-chilling anecdotal evidence of friends, family and strangers quoting incorrect news stories to me. Largely because their only source of news is Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. For those people, they’ve already lost the war on reality. They’ve given in to the idea of believing something just because they’ve read it somewhere. Whilst we can continue to preach media literacy, and introduce proper digital practice into school curriculums, there’s an entire generation whom it’s already too late for.
But as I say, it’s really all child’s play compared to the potential future of it all. The following paragraphs are the hypothetical, Tuesday morning speculations of a writer who’s had too much coffee already.
Imagine an affordable, immersive reality that’s marketed to us as a game. In a similar way that Pokemon Go was a trend for the summer of 2016, we’d all download it and give it a Go. I’m not talking about VR games we’ve seen on consoles in recent years, where twelve-year-olds can yell racist memes at each other for nine hours a day. Although given what I’m about to propose, that could easily be seen as a more attractive future.
Imagine the in-depth detail of Westworld, but fifty years after something like that has been first made available to the public. When it’s all as cheap as a ticket to Disneyland and enjoyed on a daily basis by the masses. I’m aware that Disney charge a lot for their theme parks, but bloody hell guys, this is one-hundred-percent immersion we’re talking about here! It’s always going to be big bucks, but priced just competitively enough for working class families to save diligently enough for it.
So now we’re all plugged in, and with every passing day we spend more and more time inside of the New Reality. Everything is better there. We’re told exactly what we want to hear and our biases are reinforced on a face to face level. Oh, it’s delicious.
We can avoid the people we don’t want to talk to in real life; a particular group of people or the fascists themselves. Ooo, isn’t it lovely. When anyone mentions news from the real world, they’re scorned. This is escapism man, get out of here with your real world shit!
All of the content within the New Reality is perfectly crafted to ping our nostalgia tubes and fill them with creamy reminders of wonders from the last few hundred years of human history. They’ll have collected all of your personal information, so the AI will be made up of people similar to your closest friends and family from throughout your life so far. They won’t look identical, that would give the game away. They’ll just be the sorts of people that make you think, “Yeah, those are my kind of people.” It’s the menu we all know and love; your favourite people all together in your favourite restaurant.
And then you won’t be able to get away, because you’ll have made connections and attachments that are more tangible than those you actually have in the real world. Except this isn’t like the days of the internet, where you could make a digital connection with someone across the world and then turn it into a meaningful, physical relationship. These guys can’t leave the reality that has been created for you all, so how can you?!
That’s when they’ll creep in and slit our throats.
Our poison the liquid that’s pumping nutrients into our physical vessels, because that’ll be less messy and more efficient. The throat slitting just made for a more jarring sentence after all of that idealistic talk.
We’ll be so lost in the immersive experience of a self-stylised, utopian reality that we’ll forget what’s actually real. And Operation Cull the Population will be considered a great success by the masturbating trillionaire, because even he will inevitably become tired with the world he has created for everyone.
So anyway, that’s basically how I think the third (and hopefully final) season of Westworld ends. Essentially that but with more cowboys.
I’ll let you figure out who the masturbating trillionaire is.
It’s the morning of Tuesday, May 8th and my hour is up. Hold on to your truths.