What Is The Good Samaritan Reflex On 'Westworld'? Something The Guests Should Be Very Thankful For
Westworld is a show that looks at the way that people interact with video games and virtual narratives and takes that to a logical extreme. While the HBO series has already raised questions about common video game features — like what happens when you allow people to act out their most violent urges without consequence — it hasn't yet tackled th topic of "griefers." In the world of gaming, griefers are players who dedicate themselves to ruining the game for others, even going so far as to harm other players in the game for no real reason. But it seems that Westworld has a good reason for not showing this practice — it has a system in place to prevent it. When it looks like some guest-on-guest violence is about to occur, Westworld's Good Samaritan reflex kicks in.
The terms and conditions featured on the Westworld resort website remind guests that "All humanoid and animal Hosts within Delos parks work to keep guests safe, even when the narrative calls for them to appear to endanger guests. Please note, the appearance of danger is not the same as true danger, and all Hosts utilize the Good SamaritanTM reflex to prevent bodily harm." It's comforting to know that the hosts of Westworld are designed to protect guests, but that still doesn't explain what exactly the Good SamaritanTM reflex is, and whether the hosts could ever override it.
Fortunately, the Westworld website (DiscoverWestworld.com) doesn't just feature terms and conditions — it also has a host of its own design to answer questions. When this host, Aeden, is asked "What is the Good Samaritan Reflex," its automated response is: "You’re safe from the hosts by design, but what about other guests? Not to worry, hosts have been imbued with a “Good Samaritan” reflex—we are programmed to protect you from harm’s way." Basically, the hosts that live throughout the park double as a security force for any and all guest-based harm.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Westworld showrunner Lisa Joy further explained this feature:
"So say you’re in a bar fight and some guy has a knife and maybe there’s even another guest that you didn’t know and he thinks you’re a host and he’s gonna stab you in the back, In that instance, a good Samaritan host would seamlessly intersect and get in that fight and literally take that knife for you."
While the Good Samaritan reflex adds a layer of safety to prevent guest-on-guest violence, be it accidental or on purpose, it relies on the host following protocol. So what happens when the hosts stop listening to their Good Samaritan Reflexes and start getting real?
Westworld has already proven that hosts are able to cause harm to other living creatures when they aren't supposed to be. Dolores closed out the series premiere by swatting a non-host fly dead on her neck. And in the Oct. 16 episode, she overcame her programming to shoot a gun when it previously seemed impossible. It's likely that once the hosts become self-aware of their robotic nature, the Good Samaritan Reflex will become less effective.
Could this all be a part of Ford's larger plan? Is he closing the gap between artificial intelligence and real, sentient life? As always with Westworld, there are a whole lot of questions and nary an answer in sight, but it certainly looks like the park is getting a little less safe every day.
Images: John P. Johnson/HBO, Giphy (2)