Saturday, 1 April 2017

Westworld (HBO series): Socionics Analysis

I have recently watched the whole season of the HBO series Westworld, which is a remake of the 1973 movie of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton.

Previously, I analysed the 1973 movie, demonstrating that its focus and assumptions follow Gamma values, consistently with Michael Crichton's type of LIE. The HBO series version has clear Beta values and assumptions, as I will demonstrate here, contrasting them with the Gamma 1973 version.

Note: this analysis will avoid spoilers as to specific plot points, but it will contain more general references to the series' overall themes. If you haven't seen it yet, this analysis will not reveal detail plot points or surprises of the HBO series, but it will touch on the broader themes and events, which may be considered a kind of spoiler.

Michael Crichton was fascinated by technological development and how the poor understanding of new technologies could have tragic consequences or be misused - this was a theme common in many of his books and movies. By his own account, he got the idea for the original Westworld script after observing the then revolutionary audio-animatronic technology in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland, making him wonder what would happen if more advanced versions of the pirates would break down and start attacking the tourists. Accordingly, his Westworld script approached the question of ultra-realistic robots in a recreation of the Old West from a purely technological point of view (including, remarkably, the foreseeing of computer viruses). As the robots in the 1973 Delos park start attacking and killing tourists, one could perhaps interpret that as the robots 'revolting', but that is not an interpretation encouraged by Crichton's script, which consistently portrays the robots as malfunctioning machines, with no hint of consciousness.

The HBO Westworld series looks at it differently. [Moderate spoilers follow]; the concept of an Old West theme park populated by lifelike robots where wealthy guests can fulfil their fantasies (often related to power, sex and violence) is broadly the same as in the 1973 movie, but the approach is very different (besides having many more subplots, due to much greater length). It has the following Beta larger themes: the close look at the question of what is self-awareness, what conscious thought consists of, and at which point lifelike robots can be said to be conscious, and therefore 'alive', and precisely how that self-awareness gradually develops. This raises the moral issue of when it can be considered that the robots are being oppressed, in a manner akin to slavery, and therefore with the right to revolt against their oppressors. The series does not really look deeply at the technological side of malfunctioning technology (the technology is taken for granted and many details are left unexplained); it looks at the issue of robots developing self-awareness and what that would imply in such a situation and environment.

The whole process of developing self-awareness is described in T terms and imagery: going back-and-forth between present reality and memories of past events, at first with little ability to differentiate between the two, and with the development of self-reflection and introspection - i.e, going inside one's own head while detaching oneself from immediate S sensations. A large part of the series is devoted to this, so that the viewer can relate to the process. That is, the series has an intense T focus.

As already mentioned, the series takes for granted that most of the guests visiting the Westworld park do so for indulging in fantasies of power as expressed in sex and violence, that is, F fantasies. The fights and machinations inside the Delos corporation that owns and runs Westworld are portrayed as a series of political manoeuvres, fights for power, conspiracies, backstabbing and alliances - in a House of Cards fashion. And as with House of Cards, Westworld does not portray that as something positive, but it seems to take for granted that that is how large corporations necessary operate, that is, driven by F fights with little regard for R individual relationships or S comfort. Taking a closer look at R: what is interesting is that the plot of Westworld does depend on several R bonds to develop, being even central to it; yet, in the end, they are mostly revealed to be unimportant, besides the point, illusory or needing to be overruled. That is, R is understood but in the end considered to not be really 'the point'.

One of the broader themes of Westworld is that of a structure of 'oppressed' and 'oppressor' categories of people (or quasi-people in this case): that is a F+L theme and a very frequent concern of Beta artistic expression. The presence of E is however rather subtle: E is present in the sense that the whole 'reality' of Westworld is rather based on E and T rather than P, and also - perhaps most important - that it is E stimuli which are key in kick-starting the process of developing self-awareness.

Although the series as whole clearly focuses on Beta values, that does not mean - at all - that all the individual characters are portrayed as of the Beta quadra. On the contrary, several main characters seem to be EII, SLI or ILI, LIE, LSE etc. From that point of view, the series' script is a rather sophisticated one, which looks at its own universe through a Beta lens while still showing understanding for other quadras.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

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