Around the time this newsletter hits your inbox, all of us here at AutonoMusings will be deep in the throes of watching the West World season premiere.
The show depicts an amusement park of sorts, populated with advanced robots that play characters in a Wild West town where guests go to act out fantasies of all kinds.
To those of us in the robotics world, it’s fascinating to watch how West World plays with the possibility that — perhaps not too long from now — we’ll create life-like androids.
Which leads to our Water Cooler Question of the Week:
If it were technically feasible to build robots that are nearly indistinguishable from actual people, would we use them to create hyper realistic, violent immersive experiences like West World?
Here are some of our thoughts:
“West World’s style of detailed storytelling would require a very high degree of realism for the guests to suspend their disbelief enough for it to be enjoyable. My bet is that by the time it’s sufficiently life-like, it would also be too realistic for most people to enjoy. Guests leaving with PTSD is bad business. One way around that would be to use storytelling to explain why the robots are less realistic. If they’re abstract enough, shooting a robot is harmless fun. That’s why my bet would be that Terminator Planet would have the bigger market.” - Joshua
“Frankly, I cannot imagine a world where this is not our future. If you look at the evolution of video games, you see a trend towards hyper realism, incorporating not only extremely life-like audiovisual stimulation but also haptic feedback in controllers to reinforce realistic control over virtual objects. Today, we play out our fantasies in the VR world of Oculus; tomorrow, why not with the androids of West World? I don’t think you can draw a line in the sand that we won’t cross in our quest for hyper realistic entertainment. If there is such a line, what would it look like, who’s going to draw it, and who would enforce it?” - Jen
“I think we would build it. When we do, the most engrossing VR game will seem like pallid escapism. A West World-like immersive experience would have far more visceral impact — the feel of dust, the stink of unwashed sweat, horses, dirt, blood, and gunpowder. It will be emotionally indistinguishable from reality. The lure of overthrowing civilized behavior in favor of violence and barbarism would be very real, and very powerful. I suspect that we would come to feed on the intensity of such experiences much to our ultimate degradation.” - Iain
"Even so, count me in!” - Joshua