I'll admit, it took me a while to develop empathy for the hosts on Westworld beyond distaste for the guests who were using them as substitute humans for nefarious purposes. However, the HBO series makes a case for artificial intelligence unlike any I've seen before. In an interview with Bustle, Westworld actress Angela Sarafyan explains how the hosts are like us in ways that will make you think.
"[The writers] are really creative and smart," Sarafyan says, "and I think they're asking the right questions, too. Because I think they're asking questions that we all ask, ultimately, just in an incredibly awesome way." We learn in the series that Arnold believed the hosts were a new life form worth protecting rather than exploiting. However, what if he was asking the wrong question?
"I'm fascinated with the element of these hosts finding some level of consciousness," she says. Sarafyan's character, Clementine, is an interesting case. She hasn't achieved the kind of awareness that, say, Maeve or Dolores has, but she is having dreams of past narratives and did attack William/the Man in Black in the season finale as part of the army of hosts. When the show returns for Season 2, who knows what Clementine will be like.
"These hosts," she says, "they come with a clear mind. They come into being with a lot of clarity ... There isn't anything in their minds until they're being fed or taught or programmed into thinking or being a certain way."
That's not something I had considered before. Hosts aren't kept awake with busy thoughts or anxieties like human beings are. It isn't until the reveries that, as Sarafyan puts it, "the experiences that they have begin to influence who they become."
Maybe it isn't that the hosts are too much like human beings, but that human beings are too much like hosts. That's something that Westworld is exploring as well. "Until we start to awaken and question the stuff that we're doing," Sarafyan says, we may have more in common with the Delos creations than we think.
"As human beings," she says, "we're born and then we go to elementary school, then middle school, then high school, then college, and we have careers and we find someone that we love ... ultimately create a family. You know what I'm saying? There's a path to the way we live our life and it's kind of a program, whether we know that or not. So [the show is] ultimately questioning that path and the choices we make."
Whether those loops and narratives come from our families, friend groups, education, or society at large — it's there. We all feel like we're trapped in our story from time to time. No gears necessary.